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.
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.
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
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.