A Brief History of the HSPA Building

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In 1794, Jacob Buckwalter gave the property to the Mennonite Church who then erected a stone meetinghouse on the site later that year.  They also began using the adjacent property as a cemetery.  It is the oldest religious site in what is now Phoenixville and has served as the starting place for at least seven other congregations including Baptists, United Brethren, Presbyterians, and Lutherans.

Matthias Pennypacker was the first Mennonite to preach at the site and did so from 1794 to 1808.  The Mennonite Church’s original building stood on the site for 79 years when due to its rundown condition it was replaced with a new structure.  With permission of the Chester County Court, the congregation sold some of the adjoining ground and cemetery and erected a new church in 1873.  The building constructed at that time is the main church portion on the eastern end of the property.  The rear addition was constructed in 1905.

The cemetery contained the graves of the parents of Governor Samuel Pennypacker (PA Governor from 1903 to 1907) and the forebearers of former U. S. Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts (5/2/1875 to 5/17/1955).  He was one of three Supreme Court Justices who voted against FDR’s Executive Order for Japanese American internment camps during World War II.  When the Fisher Memorial Parsonage was constructed in 1923, the remaining markers were interred and the entire graveyard was leveled and landscaped.

Shortly after the completion of the new structure in 1873, it became apparent that the Mennonite Congregation had become so depleted in members that it would be unable to continue holding regular services.  In 1875, the property was turned over to the newly formed Central Lutheran Church.  The Lutherans had been using the building for services since 1873 when the Mennonites gave Thomas King, a representative of the English-speaking Lutherans, permission to hold services there.  Central Lutheran Church was officially organized on December 25, 1875.

The Fischer Memorial Parsonage, which is adjacent to the Church, was completed in 1926.  The Social Room in the basement on the Western side of the building was completed in 1939 and a general renovation program was completed in 1950.  The Felgemacher Pipe Organ was completely renovated in 1949 along with the interior of the church.

In 1969, the Central Lutheran Church consolidated with the St. John’s Lutheran Church.  Lutheran church worship services continued in the building until 1971.  After 1971, the building was used by a community-oriented mission and also served as a home for several congregations that needed a place for services in Phoenixville.  The Society acquired the building in 1980.   One congregation continued to use the building for worship services for a while after 1980.

 

 

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Making a Donation to the Historical Society

Please consider making a donation to the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area that may be tax-free. We are a PA non-profit corporation with an IRS status of 501(c)(3). We appreciate your support!

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