The preservation of historic Abolition Hall in the Township is one step closer to reality after the Board of Supervisors last night approved an agreement for a $2 million grant from The Karabots Foundation to the Whitemarsh Art Center.
The generous grant from The Karabots Foundation will go toward the $3.95-million purchase of the 10.45-acre property off Butler Pike that is home to Abolition Hall, Hovenden House and the Main House by the Township and the Art Center. Abolition Hall, Hovenden House and the Main House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Township and Art Center had entered into an agreement of sale for the property in April 2021. The Art Center will move to the property with other uses of the homestead to be determined. The Art Center Board of Directors has also approved the grant agreement. The balance of the property’s purchase price is coming from the Township’s Open Space Fund.
A former Underground Railroad station, Abolition Hall was built in 1856 by George Corson. Abolitionists, including Frederick Douglas, Harriet Beecher Stowe and William Lloyd Garrison, spoke there.
“I know I speak for all of Whitemarsh Township when I say thank you to The Karabots Foundation,” said Whitemarsh Supervisor Chair Laura Boyle-Nester. “This incredible generosity is another sign of Nicholas and Athena Karabots’ commitment to our community and its history.”
Located on Cedar Grove Road, the Whitemarsh Art Center was founded in 1964. It offers day and evening programming for children and adults with a goal of enriching the community by fostering inspiration, appreciation and engagement in the arts. The center had been searching for a new home so it could increase its class offerings and broaden its curriculum to better serve the public, with a particular focus on serving the needs of underserved and disadvantaged youth.
“The Whitemarsh Art Center is indebted to the Karabots family for the trust they have placed in us. This gift allows us to further their mission and ours,” said Dan Zuena, president of the Whitemarsh Art Center Board of Directors. “Together, Whitemarsh Township, the Karabots family and the Art Center are developing a promising and bright future.”
The Karabots Foundation is a longtime supporter of Whitemarsh Township. In 2010, Athena and Nicholas Karabots contributed $4.4 million for the expansion and renovation of the William Jeanes Memorial Library. In appreciation of the contribution, the library is now known as the William Jeanes Memorial Library and Nicholas and Athena Karabots Center for Learning.
“The Karabots Foundation and the Karabots family are extremely pleased that this grant will enable Whitemarsh Township and the Whitemarsh Art Center to preserve such a historically significant building as Abolition Hall and its surrounding buildings and grounds; and more importantly, they are delighted that it will enable the Township and Art Center to provide outreach services to local underserved and disadvantaged youth in the form of the educational, cultural and recreational programs that will be offered at the Property,” said Robert Downs, representative of The Karabots Foundation. “The Karabots family looks forward to continuing its longstanding support of Whitemarsh Township and its communities.”
The Township and Art Center expect to close on the property within 90 days.