GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Dozens of people gathered Sunday afternoon in the cold to get a look at a recently restored 189-year-old Quaker meetinghouse.
Members of the Atlantic City Area Friends Meeting, the group that maintains the historic meetinghouse, gave visitors a brief presentation on the building and the history of Quakers in South Jersey.
“We think it looks very much like it did originally,” said Rick Goldberg, of Galloway, who has been attending services at the meeting for about 20 years.
It’s a small, simple building that features several rows of wooden benches on each side. The walls are plain and white and dotted with glass pane windows.
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There’s no heating system and limited electricity. Bob Barnett, the meeting’s unofficial historian, said the building originally had a wood stove in the middle, but that knowledge didn’t warm up those in attendance Sunday.
The meetinghouse was built in 1828 by orthodox Quakers in Woodstown, Salem County. After falling into disrepair, it was moved to Historic Smithville in 1969 to become part of an exhibit.
Then, in 1987, the Atlantic City Area Friends Meeting took custody of the building, and it was moved to its current location next to the group’s more modern meetinghouse on Pitney Road.
Meeting Clerk Alice Gitchell said the structure was just hoisted up on blocks in the parking lot. Funds from the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the regional Quaker group, were used to build a foundation, and members have been making smaller improvements ever since, Gitchell said.
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More recently, the meeting used funds from the Philadelphia group and donations from members to have the roof replaced and the building repainted, Gitchell said. The renovations totaled less than $10,000, she added.
“It was getting fragile,” said Gitchell, of Galloway Township. “Now, we think it’s pretty well preserved.”
Gitchell said the meeting occasionally holds worship services in the old meetinghouse in the summer. It’s surrounded by trees and can be quite beautiful on a warm day, she added.
“Many people have told me that if you sit here, you can get terrific vibes in the silence and listening to the quiet,” Goldberg told the audience during the presentation.