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Friends Meeting House

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Located at 141 Central Avenue, the Dover Society of Friends Meetinghouse was raised in June, 1768. It is the oldest religious structure in Dover and a fine example of early post and beam architecture. It is the third meetinghouse of the Friends and for many years was the largest assembly hall in Dover.

The entrance contains two doors, the left originally leading to the women's side, the right to the men's. The segregated sections were used for separate, but equal, business meetings. The partitions dividing the sexes could, however, be removed for joint worship. Presently, one side remains in its original form for meeting for worship while the other side houses a library and a small kitchen area.

The woodframe, building with a balcony story (now closed off), measures 30' X 50'. With its large beams, thick walls and timbers fastened with wooden pins, the meetinghouse remains largely as it was during Colonial times.

No preacher or pulpit was used during Quaker services. Instead, silence was the rule so that God might inspire each individual directly. There was no music or readings: if a member received a message, (s)he would rise and explain it to the congregation.
 


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John Greenleaf Whittier often attended the meetings here as a child when visiting his grandmother at the Hussey Farm on the outskirts of Dover. His parents, John Whittier and Abigail Hussey, were married here in 1804.

Although one-third of Dover's population was Quaker in the 1680's, by 1912 regular Sunday meetings had ceased and the building was only open once a year, usually only on Fast Day in April. The meetinghouse was reopened in 1955 for Dover's Centennial celebration, and Friends' meetings for worship and and business meetings are now regularly held here.
   
The meetinghouse was raised once again in 1989 to excavate for more space and to add an entrance for the handicapped. This additional basement space is now used for the expanded Sunday school program.
    From the 1992 Heritage Walking Tour Booklet.

 

This historical essay is provided free to all readers as an educational service. It may not be reproduced on any website, list, bulletin board, or in print without the permission of the Dover Public Library. Links to the Dover Public Library homepage or a specific article's URL are permissible.