Frozen in Time: The History of Breyers and USciences

By Nicole Carrera

Published on September 9, 2021

Breyers Sign

University of the Sciences has experienced tremendous growth and change over its 200-year history. From name changes to growth in program offerings and student population, the campus itself has changed as well. While the University opened at its present location in 1928, it eventually grew to take over the space previously occupied by a sweet neighbor. 

The area that is now home to the Integrated Professional Education Complex (IPEX) and McNeil Science and Technology Center (STC) once was home to the Breyers Ice Cream plant.

USciences, then Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science (PCPS), acquired the space from Breyers parent company, Unilever Corporation, in 1997, two years after the plant closed. The additional 11.2 acres nearly doubled the size of the current campus and allowed the school to flourish, building additional facilities to serve a student population which desired more amenities and which provided space for the University to grow.

At the time of the acquisition, PCPS President PHILIP P. GERBINO P’69, PharmD’70 had big dreams for the future of the site. In a 1998 edition of The Bulletin, Dr. Gerbino shared that this space would help to ensure the future of the University at its current location. With the newfound space, PCPS’ plan was to create a green space, additional parking, and eventually an academic building, fieldhouse, and a dormitory.

Shot of campus with Breyers plant

Breyers Ice Cream was founded in 1866 by William A. Breyer, who made and served his hand cranked ice cream, delivering via horse-drawn wagon. As the business grew, the Philadelphia native opened his first retail shop in 1882, soon followed by five others. 

The Breyers plant at Woodland Avenue in West Philadelphia opened its doors in 1924, helping to serve Breyers Ice Cream to the nation. Just four years later in 1928, USciences moved to its current location and became Breyers’ neighbor at 43rd and Woodland Ave.

Many students, faculty, and staff who attended PCPS have fond memories of the University’s sweet, former neighbor. Students often visited the plant’s quality control lab to observe the production process. Stories of mystery ice cream flavors being shared with students and the landmark sign lighting the way back to campus are well known. 

“I remember whenever we had a campus blood drive, Breyers employees would come over to donate too,” recalls alumnus DOUG CAMPBELL P’73. “And Breyers always sent over some of their delicious ice cream novelties to enjoy after giving blood on campus!”

In 1946, after working in quality control at the Breyers plant, alumnus EDGAR J. ROBERTS PhG’29, PhC’30 wrote a book, entitled The American Way: A History of the Breyers Ice Cream Company, which explored the history of the company to commemorate its 80th year. 

Both Breyers and USciences have continued to grow. Today, Breyers produces over 40 flavors of ice cream and continues to pride itself on using the finest ingredients. USciences' campus now spans 24 acres and is home to 23 buildings.

USciences alumni shared their Breyers memories on the USciences LinkedIn page.

Alumni social media comments

Categories: News,Community, West Philadelphia, Campus, History