About Williamson 2022-11-18T15:49:11-05:00

About Williamson

Williamson’s Mission

Williamson College of the Trades prepares deserving young men to be respected leaders and productive members of society.

To accomplish the mission, Williamson gratuitously provides students with academic, trade, technical, moral and religious education, and a living environment based on the Judeo-Christian perspective that fosters the values of faith, integrity, diligence, excellence, and service.

Williamson College of the Trades Deed of Trust (PDF)

Williamson’s Values

The college’s core values are: Faith, Integrity, Diligence, Excellence, and Service.

Areas of Study

Associate in Specialized Technology Degrees

– Construction Technology, Carpentry Emphasis
– Construction Technology, Electrical Emphasis
– Construction Technology, Masonry Emphasis
– Landscape Construction and Management
– Machine Tool Technology
– Power Plant Technology

Length of Study Enrollment Student/Faculty Ratio
Three Years 265 (approximately) 13:1 (approximately)


All students attend on full scholarships that cover tuition, room, board, and textbooks. Students pay entrance costs for personal items, annual fees for certain equipment and books that they retain for personal use, and annual fees for breakage and yearbook.

Student Duties

Students must follow the college’s regulations, policies, and procedures as described in the Student Handbook, including assisting in food service operations and campus maintenance.


All students must live in an on-campus dormitory supervised by an adult dormitory manager.

Physical Plant

Williamson’s campus includes the Main Administration Building; Restall Sports Center; Carpentry Shop; Machine Shop; Masonry Shop; Paint Shop; Power Plant; Lipp Educational Center; Dorrance H. Hamilton Horticultural Center; Walter M. Strine, Sr. 2W9 Learning Center; William L. McLean, Jr. Technical Center; Grounds Buildings; ten dormitories; faculty homes; and athletic fields.


The 220-acre campus is located in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, one mile west of Media and fourteen miles west of Philadelphia, near the intersection of US 1 and PA 352.


Williamson is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and approved by the Division of Program Services of the Pennsylvania Department of Education to confer the Associate in Specialized Technology Degree. To better serve its students, to provide additional opportunities for self-reflection, and to enhance partnerships with other institutions of higher education, Williamson College of the Trades is pursuing MSCHE accreditation. Click here for more information.

The Founding of Williamson

On December 1, 1888, Isaiah Vansant Williamson, a Philadelphia merchant and philanthropist, founded The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades, now known as Williamson College of the Trades. His purpose in founding the college was to provide financially disadvantaged young men with the opportunity to become productive and respected members of society. In his own words, “It was seeing boys, ragged and barefooted, lounging on the streets, growing up with no education, no idea of usefulness, that caused me to think of founding a school where every boy could be taught some trade free of expense.”

I. V. Williamson was born on February 3, 1803 in Fallsington, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to a Quaker family whose ancestors came to America before William Penn. As a boy, Williamson worked as an apprentice in a country store, saving enough money to open his own dry goods store in Philadelphia. For a number of years, he ran the store and several subsequent businesses quite successfully, enabling him to retire in 1838 with a small fortune. Adopting the custom of wealthy young men at that time, he traveled throughout Europe for a couple years.

Upon his return, Williamson began a plan for investing his money and by 1880 had become one of the wealthiest men in Philadelphia. As his wealth grew he turned to philanthropy, giving away much of his fortune. A self-effacing man, he anonymously gave large sums to favorite charities, hospitals, colleges, and homes for children. The founding of Williamson College with a two million dollar endowment was one of his last charitable acts before he died in 1889.

Upon founding the college, he directed through a deed of trust that the Quaker ideals of hard work, honesty, religious faith, and modest lifestyle be instilled in the students. In his own words, he said that “in this country every able-bodied, healthy young man who has learned a good mechanical trade, and is truthful, honest, frugal, temperate, and industrious, is certain to succeed in life, and to become a useful and respected member of society.” Although some of the original rules have since been adapted to the times, the college remains dedicated to the values upon which it was founded.

The College’s History

The 220-acre campus, located in Middletown Township, Delaware County, PA, was purchased in 1889. Frank Furness, one of the most prominent architects of the day, was employed to design the buildings. Williamson opened in 1891 and it offered three-year programs in bricklaying, carpentry, machine shop, and pattern-making. With the first graduation in 1894, it became a significant pioneer in America’s vocational education movement.

For more about Williamson’s history, visit our Archives page.

In 1957, when a fire destroyed all but one of the shop buildings, it looked like Williamson might be forced to close, but the college was saved when the Board of Trustees entered into agreement with the Trustees of the Rodman Wanamaker estate, creating The John Wanamaker Free School of Artisans, now an integral part of Williamson. The agreement funded the construction of four new shop buildings and a general education building, and provided an endowment that covered an increase in the number of scholarships offered.

Until 1961, students were of high school age and Williamson’s curriculum emphasized the trades. However, due to the rise of secondary education and the significant advances of technology, the Williamson Board of Trustees decided to convert the school to a post-secondary institution. Programs were upgraded and in 1972 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted the Williamson the authority to award the Associate in Specialized Technology Degree.

On July 1, 2015 The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades officially changed its name to Williamson College of the Trades. The college currently offers Craftsman Diplomas in Carpentry and Masonry and Associate in Specialized Technology Degrees in Construction Technology (with an emphasis on carpentry or masonry); Horticulture, Landscaping and Turf Management; Machine Tool Technology; Paint and Coatings Technology; and Power Plant Technology.

Begun in the 19th century, Williamson still provides a free, quality trade and technical education to qualified young men and continues to upgrade its programs to meet the current challenges of advancing technology.

Williamson’s Vision

Through scholarships that fully meet each student’s financial need, Williamson uniquely develops the entire student, spiritually, socially, and professionally, emphasizing academic, trade, technical, and moral education in a structured community based on Judeo-Christian principles.

Why Williamson Matters

Researchers from Tufts University’s Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development recently concluded a three-year study of character development at Williamson, funded through a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation. In the video above, Tufts University Researcher, Dr. Richard Lerner summarizes the results of the study and expounds upon why Williamson matters for the future of American society.