York Friends Meetighouse
Completed in 1766 and expanded in 1783, the York Friends Meetinghouse is the oldest religious building in York County having been used as such for over 250 years. Its east section is a simple 1.5 story, two bay brick structure with a gable roof and the west addition is similar in design and almost doubled the building’s size. As one would expect, its interior is as simply designed as its exterior, with center facing wooden pews and unadorned walls. The Meetinghouse is still used by the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, for weekly meetings and worship services every Sunday at 11:00. The Meetinghouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Backstory and Context
The town of York was founded in 1741, incorporated as a borough in 1787 and as a city in 1887 and the York Friends Meeting has been present since the beginning. The first call for a Friends Meeting appeared in the Warrington Monthly Register in 1764 and two years later lots 175 and 176 were deeded “…for use of the Society of Friends, forever.” by Nathan and Edith Hussey. William Willis and Joseph Garretson were then tasked with building the east portion of the Meetinghouse in 1766. The west portion was added in 1783 to accommodate a women’s meeting and a panel was added to separate the two which could be raised to create a large meeting room for worship.
York was then established as a Monthly Meeting in 1786 with William Kersey as clerk of the Meeting. The size of the York Meeting then ebbed and flowed as new members joined and others headed west to establish Meetings in Ohio and Indiana. The low point in membership arrived in 1858 when there were not enough male members to hold a Monthly Meeting. It then was incorporated into the Baltimore Monthly Meeting as a result and remained as such until 1913. It was then reorganized as an Independent Meeting in 1932.
In 1951 it became part of the Warrington Quarter once again and George Jessop sat as clerk until 1955. That year it was taken over by Eldon Leech who clerked for the next 38 years and was often the only Friend in attendance in order to “keep the Meeting.” During the Vietnam War Era it became an anti-war meeting place. However, by the early 1970s it had fallen into a state of disrepair due to neglect and vandalism. Its mortar was crumbling, bricks were missing, window panes broken, and many gravestones in its small cemetery were knocked over, defaced or missing. Fortunately, the building was saved by the combined efforts of the York Chamber of Commerce and Historical Society of York County which raised funds and secured the assistance of local union members who volunteered time and materials. Renovations were completed by 1976.
The York Friends Meetinghouse is one of the few pre-Revolutionary War buildings in York County and one of the oldest Meetinghouses in the country. It still holds silent worship every Sunday at 11:00, discussion/speakers second and third Sundays at 9:30 and spirit led singing the fourth Sunday at 9:30. The York Friends Meeting still practices and emphasizes simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, stewardship and service at its Meetings during which all are welcome.
Gleason, Jerry and David Berman. "National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form." United States Department of the Interior/National Park Service. March, 1975. Accessed December 20, 2017. http://www.dot7.state.pa.us/CRGIS_Attachments/SiteResource/H001049_01H.pdf
"History of York Friends Meeting." fgcquaker. Accessed December 20, 2017. https://www.fgcquaker.org/system/files/cloud_attachments/History%20of%20York%20Friends%20Meeting_0.p...
Tyson, Rae. "Our First Friends, the Early Quakers." Pennsylvania Heritage. Spring, 2011. Accessed December 20, 2017. http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/portal/communities/pa-heritage/our-first-friends-early-quakers.html
Rubinstein, David. "York Friends, 1939-1945." Quaker Studies, vol. 7, iss. 1. 2003. Accessed December 20, 2017. http://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1080&context=quakerstudies