The Valley Forge experiment

DuPortial House

Photo credit: University Archives

Early last century, Penn seriously considered a plan to build a new campus—a sort of Penn-in-miniature—way out in Valley Forge. The plan was spearheaded by Penn President Thomas S. Gates, who believed the physical appearance of a campus could help learning. In the Cressbrook Farm property, Gates saw a unique opportunity to deliver a highly personalized education for a small group of students. The plan, as outlined in a 1937 article in The Pennsylvania Gazette, was intended to allow Penn to “preserve intimate educational values.” As an added bonus, several existing buildings at the site could be used for the new campus, including the beautiful DuPortial House (pictured), which was once home to George Washington’s chief engineering officer, General Louis Le Bègue de Presle du DuPortail, and was to serve as the new campus’ administration building.

Gates’ plan was received warmly by Penn alumni, but was derailed by the onset of World War II. And though the plan was later considered by several other Penn presidents, the Valley Forge “experiment” never came to fruition.

For more on this and other notable moments in Penn’s history, visit the University Archives web site at

Originally published on March 1, 2007