Buckingham Friends Meeting House

Also known as: Buckingham Meeting of Friends, Buckingham Monthly Meeting
5684 Lower York Road, Buckingham Township, Pennsylvania

Map 

Description 

Completed in 1768, Buckingham Friends Meeting House is the earliest known example of the doubled type that became a conventional form for American Friends meeting hoses for nearly a century. While earlier meeting houses varied greatly in style, in form they appeared externally as a single-cell structure. These buildings were either partitioned into two unequally sized apartments or had a smaller structure appended to accommodate separate men's and women's business meetings. This plan conformed to the old English program whereby men and women met together only for worship and separated to conduct gender specific business meetings. Buckingham's symmetrical, two-cell form contained equal apartments. The design expressed a programmatic change. In contrast to the early style of meeting, men and women met on separate sides of the partition, which was open for worship and closed for business. The wide array of meeting house forms erected prior to Buckingham reflects the somewhat dynamic nature of meeting program and meeting house design before the later eighteenth century. Working through various alternatives to develop a building that best suited their silent worship and democratic form of self rule, Buckingham posed a logical solution. The vast majority of meeting hoses erected in the Delaware Valley during the decades to follow adopted the new form. Although attributed largely to the Quaker belief in the equality of the sexes, the standardization of meeting house design also coincided with important movements in Quaker history such as "Quietism" and spiritual reform. During this time period the Friends, through the leadership of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, directed the further rejection of the non-Quaker world and demanded stricter adherence to their doctrine. Quaker discipline is re-written and further codified to create a more cohesive program that may have encouraged the development of a uniform meeting house design. Despite moves to uphold tenets of simplicity, Buckingham Meeting House's use of the popular Georgian-style of architecture reflects contemporary tastes and thus the "worldliness" of the Buckingham Friends. While the aesthetic emphasis on symmetry lent itself to the new meeting house design, the sophistication of its Georgian styling reflected the affluence of the Buckingham Quakers. From an architectural standpoint, Buckingham is among the most finely articulated meeting houses in the Delaware Valley. For nearly three hundred years, this site has served as the focal point for the religious, social and educational activities of Buckingham Friends. The current 1768 meeting house is the fourth on this site. The first house was erected between 1705 and 1708 by English Quakers who were some of the earliest settlers to the southern portion of Bucks County. -- Historic American Buildings Survey

National Register information 

Status
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on July 31, 2003
Reference number
03001034
Areas of significance
Architecture; Ethnic Heritage - European; Religion
Level of significance
National
Evaluation criteria
C - Design/Construction
Property type
Building
Historic functions
Religious structure; Cemetery
Current functions
Religious structure; Cemetery
Period of significance
1750-1799
Significant year
1768
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 4
Contributing structures: 3
Contributing sites: 1

Sources