BY NATE SMELLE
Residents Carolyn Botari and Mary Lamb stood before Council on Monday, Jan. 9 to present their proposal to protect the Quaker Meeting House/Women’s Institute by designating it as a heritage building.
Located at 1411 Maple Street in Fenwick, the building has a rich history dating back to 1875. Botari described the building in detail to Council, explaining how the exterior wood siding, floors, trim and windows are all original to the structure. Botari and Lamb asked Council to pass a bylaw recognizing the structure as an important part of Pelham’s history that deserves to be preserved.
“The Society of Friends was an integral part of the establishment of Pelham and its growth and development,” Botari said.
“The meeting house’s history and structure have been thoroughly documented and it has been identified as a priority property for designation, not only by the former Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee, but also by the Pelham Historical Society, as noted in the 2007 document ‘Historically Significant Buildings in Pelham.’”
The original Meeting House was constructed in the late 1700s at the corner of Effingham and Welland Road by the Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers. It was replaced in 1807 with a larger frame building and continued to serve as a meeting place for the Quakers until the congregation split into two groups in 1828. At that time, more conservative members left the Effingham Road site for Pelham Corners, while the followers of Elias Hicks, known as Hicksites, remained where they were.
In 1875, the Pelham Hicksites replaced the frame building on Effingham with the white meeting house currently located on Maple Street. Botari said it was moved there by the Women’s Institute in 1929.
Since the early 1970s, it has also been used to showcase the Model Railroad Club’s displays. Lamb and the Historical Society want to have a plaque installed at the site, describing the building’s historical significance.
“I recently took a group of ladies from St. Catharines, 25 of them actually, around there, because they wanted to look at the old buildings and I was rather embarrassed to see that there was nothing to show that that was in fact the original Quaker meeting house,” Lamb said.
Acknowledging the value of celebrating the community’s heritage, Councilor Marvin Junkin suggested unveiling plaques for other heritage sites that have been created by the Historical Society.
He said there are already four existing plaques for that could be installed at local sites. These include: Kinsmen House on Pelham Street, the Moore House on Tice Road, the Comfort House on Cream Street and the Pollard House next to Pelham’s Old Town Hall.
Councilor Gary Accursi recently visited the Quaker Meeting House/Women’s Institute along with Lamb, Botari and an engineer. Seeing the good state of the original features firsthand, Accursi recommended that Council defer any repairs or changes to the building until they have made a decision regarding whether it should receive heritage designation.
He also requested that Town staff investigate whether the building would still have to meet the province’s new accessibility requirements if it were to be designated a heritage building.