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Palmer Begins Its Goodbyes

The seminary will move from Wynnewood to King of Prussia, likely following spring semester.

It has called Wynnewood home since 1940, but within the next few months, Palmer Theological Seminary will be saying goodbye to its campus on the corner of Lancaster and City Avenue. 

The time table is unconfirmed, but sometime following the end of spring semester, the Eastern University-affiliated school will move to King of Prussia, where it will hold classes at the American Baptist Churches Mission Center and await the move to its permanent home: a $10 million building to be constructed on Eastern University's campus. 

The seminary's Wynnewood property, which entered into an agreement of sale with Cross Properties last year, is expected to eventually house 132 apartments.

Wednesday night, the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners approved Cross Properties' conditional use applications, moving the unusually long approval process forward one more step. A preliminary plan is expected to be submitted for township approval sometime in the next few months, according to Bob Duncan, Lower Merion Building and Planning Department director.

Celebrating History

Founded in 1925, Palmer was originally called Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. After 15 years in Rittenhouse Square, the seminary moved to Wynnewood in 1940, converting the Green Hill Farms Hotel into Palmer Hall.

"There's part of me that's sad about the move, because there's such a history in this building," Palmer Seminary student Terri Moss told Patch this week.  "The school has been here since [1940], and ."

Cross Properties' plans do not include changes that would affect historical aspects of the building's exterior, according to a Lower Merion Building and Planning document. That news was a relief to Moss and fellow seminarian Heather Biscoe, who will also finish her coursework at Palmer this year.

"I'm sure it will be a beautiful location," Biscoe said of the developers' plans, adding, "I'm not sure if Palmer has it within its budget to do really beautiful building upkeep." 

Biscoe, who lives in an apartment on campus, said she really appreciates the character of the buildings' interior as well. 

"Every apartment is really unique," she explained. "... I don't know if they'll gut it and redo everything, so that makes me sad a little—the idea of all the character on the inside possibly being lost. But, it will be good to have someone who has the budget to care for [the buildings] really well. ... Part of their money will be coming from keeping this beautiful building beautiful."

Moving On

On April 28, Palmer will hold "Celebration Saturday," a day for alumni to return to campus to say their goodbyes and learn about the seminary's plans for the future.

For Moss and Biscoe, the move is bittersweet. Both students said they appreciate Palmer's racial and socioeconomic diversity, but moving to Eastern's St. David's campus will make the school much less accessible for some students.

"I'm both sad and excited for the school," Biscoe said. "I'm sad because here, we're on the bridge between suburb and city, and that's exactly what my classmates represent: both suburb and city. I'm afraid we're going to lose some of our diversity when we move just 30 minutes away, because we'll lose some of its accessibility for those people."

But, moving to Eastern's campus—a change that will probably happen in about three years—will allow seminary students to network and benefit from the academic life of the larger campus community, Moss said.

Both students said they really came into their own while attending Palmer, so the move is also personal.

"I'm graduating, so I'm not going to have classes in the new location unless I go on for my doctorate at some future point," Moss explained. "So for me, the school being in a different place means I can't go back and revisit my school. The people who've graduated for the past 60 or 70 years have been able to come back and sit in the same classrooms where they had lessons, and I think that's really cool."

When the school moves, Moss said, "...it won't be 'my school' anymore: it won't be the same building. So, my memories will have to be inside my head—I won't be able to go and explore them."

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