Penn Dental Medicine is among the oldest university-affiliated dental institutions in the nation. Its historic ties trace back to the Philadelphia College of Dental Surgery, established in 1852. In 1856, the faculty of the Philadelphia College of Dental Surgery formed the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery when the former closed, and in 1878, the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery Dean, Dr. Charles J. Essig, was asked to join the University of Pennsylvania, founding the School of Dental Medicine as the Dental Department of the University of Pennsylvania. He would serve as the School’s first Dean from 1878-1883. The Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery would eventually merge with the University of Pennsylvania in 1909.
The School’s first facilities were housed in Medical Hall (now Claudia Cohen Hall). The following year it moved into its own building, Dental Hall, which was designed and constructed for its needs.
In 1897, Thomas W. Evans, a Philadelphia native, who became the dentist to the courts of Europe during France’s Second Empire and confidant of Napoleon III, left his estate to create and maintain a dental school that would be “second to none.” Evans’ generosity made possible the construction of the Evans Building (officially called the Thomas W. Evans Museum and Dental Institute) which opened in 1915, the best-equipped dental building in the nation at that time. His boldness and spirit of leadership have continued to guide the School throughout its history of expansion and innovation both in curriculum and in clinical and scientific facilities.