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Caln Friends Meeting House, Northeast corner of Kings Highway (Route 340) & Meetinghouse Road, Thorndale, Chester County, PA

Caln Friends Meeting House, Northeast corner of Kings Highway (Route 340) & Meetinghouse Road, Thorndale, Chester County, PA



Significance: Built in 1784 and extended in 1801, Caln Meeting House poses an unusual solution to the need to accommodate a quarterly meeting. The Caln Friends chose to expand their meeting space by adding onto their existing meeting house, rather than simply building a larger structure. For the addition, they recreated the original building form and, as a result, the preparative and quarterly meeting rooms are set side by side. This arrangement visually demonstrates the hierarchy of meetings within the Friends' faith. Caln Meeting House, therefore, is uniquely suited to the interpretation of the Quaker system of Preparative, Monthly, and Quarterly meetings that was crucial to the spiritual, financial, and organizational support of the Society. In 1800, Caln and other Friends meetings in the area joined together under the auspices of Caln Quarterly Meeting. To accommodate gathering of this larger organizational unit, constituent meetings sponsored a major addition to Caln Meeting House in the following year. The new construction doubled the building's size and essentially mirrored its form, creating the exterior appearance of four neatly joined modules. However, while the 1784 section was divided inside by a central partition, the 1801 addition contained a single open room. After the 1827 schism between Hicksite and Orthodox Quakers, this architectural arrangement took on a new significance. Both groups continued to meet in the building, a highly unusual circumstance made possible in part by the meeting house's generous proportions and linear disposition of rooms. Hicksite and Orthodox Friends continued to share the space uneasily throughout the nineteenth century. Although neither group used Caln Meeting House frequently after 1910, it as the site of an historic joint meeting in 1952, and stands today in good condition. Quakers were holding meetings for worship and business in Caln Township by 1716. Within a decade, the original meeting house proved inadequate and Friends chose to erect a new building on a different site. The 1784 one-story, six-bay-long fieldstone structure is the third meeting house of the Caln Friends. Starting in the mid to late eighteenth century, the doubled form provided for equally sized men's and women's meeting rooms and was used by many meetings in the Delaware Valley.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N821
Survey number: HABS PA-6227
Building/structure dates: 1784 Initial Construction
Building/structure dates: 1801 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1822 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: ca. 1861- ca. 1862 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1913-1914 Subsequent Work



Historic American Buildings Survey, creator
Price, Virginia B, transmitter
Price, Virginia B, historian
Wunsch, Aaron V, historian
Boucher, Jack E, photographer
Lam, Kevin Joseph, delineator
Arzola, Robert R, project manager




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