EA’s campus, a recent history

(clockwise from left) EA’s campus, Aronimink Golf Club, and the Toll Brothers development – Google Maps

The Episcopal Academy moved from its original location in Merion to its new location in Newtown Square in 2008, purchasing a 123-acre parcel of land for around $20 million. The added space provided the school with luxuries such as ample parking, lots of athletic fields, and a private cross-country course. But the property came with an unusual history. 

     EA sits upon land that was once part of a large estate. The Austin family-owned over seven hundred acres in the area. William Liseter Austin, the president of Baldwin Locomotive Works, owned a 200-acre parcel adjacent to EA’s campus. Austin gave his estate to his daughter, Jean Liseter Austin, who married William du Pont, Jr., in 1920.

     The du Ponts built a large mansion on the Liseter Farm in 1920 for themselves. They also built a large barn and a dirt race track next to Route 252 (Newtown Street Road) to breed and train several champion racehorses in the 1930s. The large pastures provided ample riding space.

     When Jean died in 1988, her son John du Pont inherited the estate. John changed the name to Foxcatcher Farm, an homage to the horse stables. He built a state-of-the-art wrestling facility used to train the American Olympic wrestling team. John had little wrestling experience, but he was the head coach of Team Foxcatcher. His assistant coach, Dave Shultz, was an Olympic gold medalist. 

     Things took an odd turn on January 26, 1996, when John du Pont shot and killed Shultz in his driveway. Shultz lived in a guest house on the property and expressed an interest in leaving the team for a coaching position at Stanford University. The jury found du Pont guilty of third-degree murder and ruled that he was mentally ill but not insane. 

     After du Pont’s arrest, the estate fell into disrepair. Once manicured lawns and perfectly trimmed shrubs became overgrown with vines and weeds. The Episcopal Academy purchased part of the estate in 2008, and after John du Pont died in prison in 2010, the Toll Brothers bought the rest of the estate. In 2013, the company demolished the mansion and all the outbuildings, except the barn used for horse breeding. Toll Brothers is currently building over four-hundred houses on the property as part of a development project.