A large oil portrait of Dr. Francis Harvey Green, for whom the recently razed Bethel elementary school was named, has found a new home in Siloam United Methodist Church.

For several years the portrait was held in protective custody in the home of a Concord couple, Suzette and Jerry Nicolini.

When the Bethel Preservation Society (BTPS) learned the school was to be razed, members asked the Garnet Valley School District if a final tour could be arranged.

Several BTSP members, some teachers who had taught in the school and a former principal took the tour.

At about that time came an idea to find where Dr. Green's portrait was being housed, as well as a search for some artifacts that had been displayed in wooden cases inside the school for several years.

Most active in the search was BTSP Member Janet Goldhahn, who had spent her formative elementary school years in the now-doomed school.

Ms. Goldhahn began a series of telephone calls and meetings with Bruce Craig, Director of Operations for the Garnet Valley School District.

The BTSP asked for and received permission to remove some of the bricks and stones that were a part of the facade of the building, with the idea to turn them into commemorative souvenirs.

During this process, Ms. Goldhahn began doing some detective work to learn where, within the school district, the portrait had been taken for storage and she got an answer purely by accident.

Ms. Goldhahn and Glenn Wilson, chairman of BTSP, presented the school district with one of the commemorative bricks from the FHG School at a school board meeting.

Nicolini, by chance, was also at the meeting and stopped Ms. Goldhahn and Wilson on the way out of the building to tell them he had possession of the portrait.

The BTSP learned that Joseph Bruton, who was once a principal at the Green School, had asked that the portrait be removed to the Garnet Valley Middle School. For a time the portrait hung in the library and was eventually removed and stored in a classroom closet. The Nicolini's son, Joseph, a nighttime custodian at the school saw the portrait and told his parents about his find. The Nicolini's received permission from the school district to store the portrait at their home until a suitable place could be found for it.

The BTSP received permission to take the portrait because it felt it deserved a place to hang where the public could see it.

The portrait was presented to James R. Hanby, Sr., a trustee of the Siloam United Methodist Church in Bethel, where Dr. Green and his family had attended and where they are buried in the church cemetery. The portrait will hang in the church conference room.

During her conversations with Craig, Ms. Goldhahn learned that two cabinets that had contained artifacts and had been on display in the Green School had also been taken to the middle school.

The cabinets and artifacts were tracked down due to the tenacity of Ms. Goldhahn and Craig and permission was given for the BTSP to take the cabinets and artifacts. One of the cabinets is on display in the John L. Myers Municipal Building at 1092 Bethel Road. The second cabinet needs some minor repairs before the remaining artifacts can be placed inside.

The first cabinet holds arrowheads, various stone tools presumably used by local Indian tribes, some quartz which was gathered locally and other stones and mementos from around the country. One interesting item is the lock from the front door of the first general store in Bethel, the Booth's Corner Store, which stood at the corner of Foulk and Naaman's Creek Road. At one time, what is now called Booth's Corner was known as Boothville.

Dr. Green was born in 1861 and raised in Bethel Township (although some sources say his birthplace was West Chester). His parents were Sharpless and Mary Booth Green. He was an 1882 graduate of West Chester Normal School, where he eventually returned to teach. He left West Chester in 1920 to become headmaster of the Pennington School in Pennington, N.J., where he served until 1943.

Dr. Green was present at the groundbreaking of the Francis Harvey Green School on Oct. 15, 1950 but did not live long enough to see its completion in 1952.

After the Bethel Springs Elementary school was built, the school was rented to the Delaware County Intermediate Unit for several years until that group moved out.

The building was razed in November, 2010.

Ever vigilant to preserving the past, the BTSP hopes to accomplish that somewhat for the now-demolished FHG School by maintaining the artifacts left by the school and now in its possession.

The BTSP plans to host an open house for the public to view the artifacts when everything is in place, and credits one member, Janet Goldhahn, who followed through on the project from beginning to end.

comments powered by Disqus