1891 Property Indenture Comes Home to Drexel

1891 Property Indenture Comes Home to Drexel
Matthew Lyons
December 7, 2016

Drexel University Archives has received an important property record from 1891 that helps to document the University’s founding. The document is an indenture transferring ownership of land and buildings at the northeast corner of Chestnut and 32nd streets to the trustees of what would soon become the Drexel Institute. Anthony J. Drexel and his wife, Ellen Rozet Drexel, received one dollar in cash for the property, including the Main Building, which had recently been built at Mr. Drexel’s expense.

Under the terms of the indenture, the trustees agreed to “hold and use the premises hereby conveyed as and for an Industrial School, to be Known as the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry, which shall afford to persons of both sexes on equal terms, opportunities for education and improvement in Art, Science and Industry.”

Five trustees are named: Mr. Drexel; his associate, George W. Childs; his son, Anthony J. Drexel Jr.; and two others.

The indenture, dated October 17th, 1891, was drawn up before Drexel Institute had been incorporated. It authorizes the trustees to transfer ownership of the property to a corporation, should one be set up to oversee the Institute.

The 1891 document came to the Archives in an unusual way. A few months ago, the Archives was contacted by a former Drexel employee, who said that many years before, she had been given the indenture during a presidential transition, and she wanted to return it to the University. After some delays she did return it – to a different University department, which eventually passed it along to the Archives.

The indenture is handwritten on six sheets of 9x15-inch paper. It is highly legible and in excellent physical condition, although the pages have been pasted onto two sheets of card stock and were framed for display purposes. Archives staff removed the frames and placed the document in an oversized acid-free folder, which protects it against light damage and chemical deterioration.

The Archives holds a number of early property records and maps, which make it possible to trace the history of the land that formed the original Drexel campus. Other records in the collection refer to the newly acquired 1891 indenture, and staff are very pleased to fill in this missing piece of the story.