Yardley Builds a Meetinghouse

Compiled by Betty Steckman

This year, 2006, marks the 50th anniversary of the building of the Yardley Friends Meetinghouse at 65 North Main Street. The following article commemorates this event. Many thanks to Sid and Carol Cadwallader, the late Dorothy Bootherstone, and Ellen Northrup of the Bucks County Traveler, for the information contained herein.

Until March of 1955, Yardley was an Indulged Meeting under the care of Makefield Monthly Meeting. On March 10, 49 persons expressed their desire to be members of Yardley Monthly Meeting. The minute states:

The members parted from Makefield Monthly meeting in a feeling of love and brotherhood, expressing much gratitude for the cooperation and understanding shown during the meetings necessary in the accomplishment of the establishment of Yardley Monthly Meeting.

With enrollment of members rising, and some eighty children attending First Day School, it was clear that something had to be done to get more room. The options were to remodel the meetinghouse (a stone building at the corner of South Main and College Avenue); merge with Makefield; or build a new meetinghouse.

As Dorothy Bootherstone wrote,

I can remember my husband, Paul Comly French, coming home from a meeting at the Meetinghouse and saying that he was going to pay Grandma Cadwallader a visit, which he did. He knew that she owned a lovely piece of ground on North Main Street so he asked her if she had any plans for doing anything with it. He said she replied that she really never thought about it, and he told her the situation with the Meeting and asked her if she would consider donating it to the Meeting so that we could build a larger place for people to worship. She said, “Paul Comly French, thou hast spoken. That must have been what I was saving it for, and I can even watch it being built.”

And so Yardley Meeting began to plan their new meetinghouse. A building committee and the finance committee studied and debated how they might afford the project. It seemed feasible if much of the labor could be undertaken by the members and attenders themselves.

The architect chosen was H. Mather Lippincott, an experienced Quaker architect. The building was projected to cost not more than $45,000. In December 1955, Meeting approved the plans as well as the sale of their first building to the Yardley Savings and Loan Association for $16,000.

Ground was broken in January 1956, and the present meetinghouse was underway. Quoting an article by Ellen Northup in the Bucks County Traveler:

A professional contractor was called in to lay the foundation, which was then filled and leveled by members of the meeting, working evenings and weekends, whenever they could afford time. Mindful of the actual man-hours this job would consume, the building committee requested a large turn-out. The response was so good, and all hands dug with such enthusiasm that “more fill was put in than needed and some actually had to be hauled out again.” A second contractor installed piping for radiant heat and poured the concrete floor; steel work and framework also were the work of professionals. Then the membership again took hold, putting on sheathing and roofing. A stonemason was called in to add the stone facing and the two fireplaces and chimneys. Three different quarries supplied the stone, creating a pleasing variety of color.

Yardley Meeting was especially fortunate to have two engineers in their “crew.” Rudd Guttshall and Morris Trimmer both contributed their technical skills, which the Meeting could hardly have afforded to buy. Elizabeth C. Baldwin was always on the scene or on the phone, spurring everyone on—and always in the lead herself. James Satterthwaite, President of the Yardley Fire Company, spent his entire vacation working on the building. Robert Cliver helped to wire the heating plant the day after he was released from the hospital. Many who were nonmembers at the time pitched in too: Charlie Clappison, Leonard Caputi, Carlton Leedom, the Rynikers, Frank Chestnut, Edward Garlitz, Kenneth Honeyman.

The painting jobs fell primarily to the women. Elizabeth Baldwin could be seen up on the ladders painting the A gables at the ends of the building, worrying those on the ground.

Children pitched in to help too, carting stones and dirt in their wagons, helping with the insulation up in the rafters or running wires with the fearless agility of the young.

One chilly day, Dorothy Ryniker felt too ill to help with the painting, but stayed at home making aprons to be sold at the Christmas bazaar. The bazaar was but one source of funds. Generous financial pledges were made by members and attenders and many fund-raising activities were undertaken. The women and young people sold cakes, pies, nut bread, fancy sandwiches, needlepoint and knitting, flowers, fruit, and vegetables. Newspapers were collected and sold. A bake sale and a square dance were held, as well as two theater benefits.

Work continued through the summer. At one point the “Midnight Moonlight Builders and Plumbers Association” were finishing up the cesspool. Conrad Baldwin took off his glasses and placed them on the wall. The pool was then capped, to general applause and celebration. It was only then that Conrad realized his glasses were still on the wall—inside the cesspool! “Hold it!” he roared, diving down through the manhole. He emerged shortly, glasses firmly on his nose.

The Meeting’s children continued to play an important role in keeping the work areas tidy. One young man, Lawrence Woodhouse, took on the responsibility of mowing the lawn all summer. Other kids helped clean up after the builders—sometimes a little too enthusiastically, as the stonemason discovered when he went looking for his scaffolding.

The whole year of construction brought minor mishaps but no major catastrophes. One near-miss occurred when Paul Comly French was inspecting the nearly-completed rafters. “It’s a wonder no one’s been hurt by falling lumber,” he remarked. Just then a two-by-six came hurtling down from above, narrowly missing him.

During the construction period, Meeting for Worship was held at Makefield. Meetings for Business were held in various members’ homes. By the end of the year the Meeting had eleven new members and a thriving First Day School with many children.

The first Meeting for Worship in the new building was held in November 1956, followed by a Christmas bazaar.

And that’s the story of the building of Yardley Friends Meetinghouse at 65 North Main Street, fifty years ago this year.