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West Falmouth Preparative Meetinghouse
West Falmouth Preparative Meeting is a great example of an old building that has been re-purposed many times over.
I am coming to understand that members of meetings held in old Quaker meetinghouses have to become preservationists of antique buildings. It is, I think, both a blessing and a burden. It is a blessing because the buildings are so lovely inside, and a visit in them tells a lot about Quaker history. Worship in an old meetinghouse is quite special because of the large windows, beautiful light, and the symmetry of the room. All of these things make it a peaceful place to worship. It is a burden because the age of these buildings makes a lot of maintenance essential, and they may be less comfortable than what modern people are used to. Most meetings find a way to preserve at least some of the original features. They may add extra buildings so the meetinghouse can be preserved with minimal disruption. Most have added electricity and some form of heating system in the form of wood stove, gas stove, or central heating. Some have the original wavy glass windows. Some windows have been replaced with various forms of more conservation-minded windows. Most are probably chilly in cold weather-quilts and covers are sometimes found on the benches. I have found fans for hot weather, and hand warmers for cold weather. All meetinghouses have made accommodations for disabilities as prescribed by the Disabilities Act. Each of the choices made for renovation represent a lot of study, thought, and hard work by the meeting community. I imagine a LOT of deliberations over each of these decisions in Business Meetings.
West Falmouth's story represents their unique history as a Meeting. Here is a disclaimer: this is a simplified. For the real deal, check out their great website at http://www.capecodquakers.org .The first Meeting was held here in 1685 under the care of Sandwich Meeting. They became their own stand-alone Meeting in 1709. Both of these dates predate the Declaration of Independence!
There have been three meetinghouses in West Falmouth. The first was built in 1725 when the persecution of Quakers was easing up, the second in 1794, and the third and current one was built in 1842, each one larger to accommodate a larger membership.
The current building reflects its varied uses over the years. First it was an unprogrammed Meeting. It was revitalized in the early 1900's when a pastor was brought in and it became a programmed Quaker Meeting. At that time, wainscoting was added in the Meetingroom, and more ornate benches were brought in. There is an old pulpit in the Meetingroom, and an old piano from this era as well. The balconies were enclosed for First Day School classes and for a kitchen. It returned to being a programmed Meeting in 1964. From 1962-1990's, the Meetinghouse was shared with the Unitarians. Running water and bathrooms were added along the way.
Now, the building is only used by Friends who hold an unprogrammed meeting. The current Meetingroom has been divided in half with the partitions down. One half is the Meetingroom, and the other half is the library, a small kitchen area and a place for shared meals. There is a cemetery on the grounds, still in use. The original carriage sheds are used for today's parking.
All of it re-purposed and re-imagined for the current needs of the Meeting community.
The picture below is of the meeting room at West Falmouth Meeting taken from the balcony. The wall on the right are the partitions, kept in the down position. The benches are more ornate, with hymnal holders on the back, and there is wainscoting, a piano, and a pulpit visible in this picture, all left from the days of the programmed Meeting. Electric lights are in, there are grates on the floor from a heating system. There are also quilted curtains on the large windows to help in heat conservation.
This might be the most lovely photo of our meetinghouse. Thank you!
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