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LOECHEL v. COLUMBIA BOROUGH SCHOOL DISTRICT (01/07/52)

January 7, 1952

LOECHEL, APPELLANT,
v.
COLUMBIA BOROUGH SCHOOL DISTRICT



Appeals, Nos. 222 and 223, Jan. T., 1951, from decrees of Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, in Equity, Docket No. 10, Page 132 and Trust Book No. 37, Page 250, in cases of Sara Glatfelter Loechel and Philip H. Glatfelter v. The School District of the Borough of Columbia et al., and in re Sale of School Land by the Columbia Borough School District. Decrees reversed.

COUNSEL

Herbert S. Levy, with him Appeal, Ranck, Levy & Appeal, for appellants.

William J. Blank and Paul A. Mueller, with them Ralph M. Barley, for appellees.

Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne, Ladner and Chidsey, JJ.

Author: Stearne

[ 369 Pa. Page 134]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ALLEN M. STEARNE

The question is whether a school district holds title to real estate in fee or a trustee under a trust.

On February 29, 1936, David L. Glatfelter and wife deeded a tract of land 746 feet by 1414 feet to the School District of the Borough of Columbia in Lancaster County. The deed provides as follows: "This Conveyance is made by the grantors in loving memory of their late son, Lieutenant Richard Glatfelter, Columbia High School 1928, United States Military Academy 1933. Primarily intended as an athletic field, this land is henceforth to be held and supervised by the Columbia Borough School District, Grantee, for the lasting benefit and happiness of the youth of the Community.

"It is the sincere hope of the Grantors that in the use of this field, the boys and girls may be aided in developing a spirit of fair play, cooperation and tolerance in their relations to others."

On March 30, 1951, the common pleas court below approved a proposed sale of a strip of the real estate, 150 feet by 1414 feet, by the School District to the Columbia Malleable Castings Corporation for $20,000 (Appeal 223).

On November 22, 1950, Sara G. Loechel and Philip H. Glatfelter "children and heirs" of the grantors and as taxpayers, instituted an action in equity against the school district seeking an injunction against such proposed sale upon the ground that the school district held the land as trustee under a valid trust. The court below decreed that the land was not impressed with a charitable trust but was held in fee (Appeal 222), and approved the proposed sale. This appeal followed.

[ 369 Pa. Page 135]

In the early case of Griffitts et al. v. Cope at al., 17 Pa. 96, it is said, p. 99: "There is a very palpable distinction between a gift of land from motives of charity, and a deduction of land to charitable uses...." In that case land was devised "to build a meeting-house." The structure was erected and was used for more than a hundred years, when a new meeting house was erected on other ground and the land in question sold. This Court held that the devise was of a fee and not a qualified fee. See Restatement, Trusts, Sec. 351, comment d; Scott on Trusts, Sec. 351, p. 1933. The expression of a purpose will not of and by itself debase a fee: Pearson et al. v. Nelley et al., 331 Pa. 376, 200 A. 654. The recital in that deed revealed that the grantor had given his bond in L5,000 that he would convey ground "for Erecting a Court House and Gaol thereon in trust for the use of the Inhabitants of said County of Dauphin." The Habendum in the deed declared that the conveyance was in trust "for public use forever, and the... inhabitants of the said County of Dauphin,..." In deciding that the title was in fee, this Court speaking through Justice LINN, said p. 379: "In arriving at the intention of the grantors it is first to be noticed that there are no words indicating that the parties intended that on the removal of the courthouse and the prison or either the vacated land should revert to the grantors. It has long been settled that mere expression of a purpose will not of and by itself debase a fee: Kerlin v. Campbell, 15 Pa. 500 (1850); Griffitts v. ...


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