The Pennsylvania school for the Deaf (PSD) is the third oldest school of its kind in the United States. Founded on April 12, 1820 by Philadelphia merchant, David Seixas, the school began in his private home on Market Street, west of 16th Street. PSD occupied Seixas' house for about a year and then in 1821 moved to a building at the southeast corner of Eleventh and Market Streets.
One of PSD's first principals was the noted Deaf Frenchman Laurent Clerc. A teacher himself, Clerc traveled to America with Thomas H. Gallaudet and taught Gallaudet sign language on the voyage home. He then went on to establish with Gallaudet and Dr. Mason F. Cogswell the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut.
In 1825, PSD moved to its first school building at the corner of Broad and Pine Streets, the site now occupied by the University of the Arts. Classes were held in what is presently Haviland Hall. Almost seventy years later, in 1892, the school moved again, this time to a spacious, thirty-three acre location in Mt. Airy. Fourteen buildings were constructed, and that campus was used for 92 years until declining enrollment and related economic factors required that the school move to a new location.
Finally, in 1984, PSD purchased its current home, the former Germantown Academy campus, from the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority and completely renovated it while preserving its unique historic character. The buildings on PSD's Germantown campus have a rich history which dates from Revolutionary War times, with the school used as a hospital during the Battle of Germantown and six British soldiers reported buried on the campus. During the Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1792, both the Pennsylvania State Assembly and the U.S. Congress used PSD's buildings. President George Washington also set up a temporary office in the current Head of School's Office and held many of his cabinet meetings here.