The Old Radnor Methodist Church, part 4

“June 3, 1833. Tot he building committee of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Radnor: this is to certify that I, the undersigned, will agree to complete all the carpenter work of said building, 45 by 55 feet, with a basement story; to have 10 twelve-light windows and 12 twenty lights in each frame and no wainscot to any part of the house; for the sum of three hundred and fifty-five dollars; with fifty dollars to be paid off when the roof is on and fifty when the basement story is done and the rest when convenient.”

(Signed) Evan Lewis

This is a copy of the original carpenter’s estimate for the second Radnor Methodist Church building, the erection of which was made necessary by the growth of the congregation in the fifty years since 1783 when the first small one-story log meeting house was built on Methodist Hill on Conestoga road. This second building still stands today, looking very much as it did 117 years ago. Indeed, the present lovely structure in appearance more nearly resembles the original than the building did for some years following 1903 when the exterior walls were covered for a while with a coating of plaster.

The decision to erect this second church building was made at a meeting held May 17, 1833, by the trustees of the church, those present being James B. Ayres, the preacher; John Gyger, Jacob Gyger, Isaac James, Isaac White and William Fisher. Evidently no time was lost in construction for before the year 1833 was out, the church was dedicated, the Rev. E. L. James, who was afterwards elected Bishop, preached the dedicatory sermon. A great revival followed the opening of the new church.

Methodist Sunday Schools had their birth in America rather than in England, there being “historic proof of a number of SUnday School beginnings by the Schwenkfelders, in Bucks and Montgomery counties, Pennsylvania, in 1734”. On what date the Sunday School was organized at “Old Radnor” is not known, though an old minute book has a record of a Sunday School Association as early as 1843, which had probably then been in existence for several years. Under date of June 27, 1858, there is a memorandum in the record book to this effect, “Numbers of scholars on the list, 28; average attendance, 18. Recitations of girls, 103 hymns, 308 verses. Recitations of boys, 113 hymns, 488 verses.”

Today the Sunday school enrollment of 157 students is one of the determining factors in “Old Radnor’s decision to build an addition to their present meeting house. Besides the more than 60 students meeting in the downstairs room, there are nine classes trying to meet in groupings among the church pews. The future potential enrollment in the Sunday School is forecast at 50 per cent increase within ten years, if it is parallel with the analysis of future enrollment for the Rosemont School made by the Radnor Township School Board and based on housing developments now in progress.

In 1894 the old Humphreys parsonage, situated on the northeast corner of Lancaster and Merion avenues, which had been occupied for many years by ministers of the Radnor Circuit, was sold to Dr. William C. Powell. During the pastorate of the Rev. Jonathan Dungan, 1891-95, a new parsonage was erected at the corner of old Lancaster road and Warren avenue by a well known builder of his time, William Gray. With its original appearance little changed except that it has been much lightened by white paint, it now houses the Rev. James M. Haney and his family, just as it has continuously housed ministers of “Old Radnor” over a period of well over fifty years.

Minutes of the meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Church held on April 4, 1881, tell of a plan to circulate subscription books in order to raise funds to repair the church, in anticipation of the Centennial Exercises to be held in February, 1882. At that time it was decided to rough-cast the outside and the inside of the church. The pulpit was to be lowered one step, and the windows were to be double-hung. This work was done, and at the same time the gable ends of the roof were extended so as to project in proportion to the eaves. The total cost of this work was $1631.21, all of which was paid before the day of reopening.

In 1891 stoves were removed from the church and a heater was installed in the basement. In 1903 the church was repainted on the inside as well as the outside, and electricity was introduced. The exterior walls were refinished, and ivy was planted around the building. In 1931, extensive alterations and repairs were undertaken to restore and beautify Old Radnor. Plaster, which for many years had covered the outside walls, was removed and the original stonework was pointed. A new slate roof was put on, the interior of the church redecorated and rearranged, and the roadway rebuilt. Since the old sheds to shelter horses were no longer needed, they were removed to provide parking space for automobiles. Sunday School rooms and a modern kitchen were built in the basement. All this was done at a total expense of $8,000. On Sunday, October 25, 1931, Old Radnor celebrated is one hundred and fiftieth anniversary with a service attended by more than three hundred members and friends.

A little more than two weeks ago, on Tuesday, November 14, the fund raising campaign for an addition to Old Radnor was launched. With a goal of $40,000 plans call for an addition which would serve the education and fellowship needs of the church. Already more than half that amount has been subscribed. Architects’ drawings show that the proposed addition would be to the left of the present edifice in the form a a long, low building in entire harmony, both in materials and architecture, with the lovely old church which has stood on its present site for 117 years. At first there would be but one floor, then as the need arose, a second floor could be added. Even the first floor addition, however, would provide adequate space for a Fellowship Hall, seating well over 200 people, which could be divided into class rooms by sound-proof curtains. With such a financial start, church officials anticipate an early completion of the campaign fund.

(The End)

For the material in this series on “Old Radnor”, the writer is indebted to the Rev. James M. Haney, minister, and to Mr. Herbert L. Flack, of the Building committee.