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Wise Preservation Planning LLC
1480 Hilltop Road
Chester Springs PA 19425
Phone (484) 202-8187
Wise Preservation Planning LLC is a full-service historic preservation planning firm. We research, document, analyze and ultimately help protect historic resources and our cultural landscape. Our firm serves a variety of clients, including municipalities, engineers, architects, historical societies, and owners of historic resources.
The firm was founded in 1997 by Robert J. Wise Jr., who has 20 years
of experience in the historic preservation field. He is assisted by Seth Hinshaw,
Senior Planner, who has been with the firm since 2001. Both planners have M.S.
degrees in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania and exceed the 36 CFR 61 Professional Qualification Standards established by the National Park Service for architectural historians.
This presentation documents the changing aesthetics of Baptist religious architecture in Chester County from 1700 to 1900. The history of Baptist houses of worship falls into three chronological eras, as outlined below. Each phase has distinct exterior and interior characteristics, which makes it possible to date a particular house of worship to a particular era with a fairly strong degree of certainty.
1. Cottage Plan (1700-1800). The earliest Baptist houses of worship in North America were
patterned after English prototypes. Consistent with other nonconformists, Baptists called their houses of worship "meeting houses"; Baptists did not begin using the term "church" for their houses of worship until after the Civil War (the third phase). During this first phase in both England and North America, Baptist meeting houses had a similar appearance to those of other denominations, reflecting the "cottage plan" introduced by English Puritans. These buildings were usually 1-story buildings with end-gabled roofs, accessed by a centered door on the south elevation. The interior consisted
of two ranks of benches, with men seated on one side and women on the other. The benches were arranged around the minister, reflecting the English idea that the minister was simply a regular attender who was being specially called at that moment to speak on God's behalf.
2. Chapel Plan (1800-1880). The second era of Baptist religious architecture began in Chester County circa 1800, when Baptists began to build houses of worship with characteristics that most Protestant denominations had been using for over a generation. In this phase, Baptists constructed a completely different form of meeting house, reflecting the "chapel plan." These meeting houses were front end gabled
buildings, often with a loft or second floor seating area. The buildings were
accessed either through a centered door or two doors on the gable end. The interior
consisted of a raised pulpit in the opposite gable end, facing a sea of boxed pews.
The interior plan placed an increased emphasis upon the minister, a break with the cottage plan. The use of boxed pews was controversial among Baptists, and some local Baptist congregations always used separate seating. Boxed pews were popular because a family could sit together inside their private enclosure, rather than dividing families by sex as was common earlier.
3. Akron Plan (1880-1925). In the late 19th century, most Protestant denominations relaxed their opposition to houses of worship that incorporated design elements from Gothic architecture. Baptists historically had eschewed towers, stained glass, pointed arch windows, and painted decorations. The Akron Plan provided a building type that was entirely new but offered the flexibility of using Gothic design motifs. Akron Plan houses of worship were
characterized by a worship space with adjacent classrooms that could be opened into the
worship space for additional seating. The most common examples are L-shaped buildings, with
a corner entry tower flanked by gables. Interior seating was usually arranged in either a half-circle
or quarter circle, facing the pulpit in the opposite corner of the building. By this time,
boxed pews had been discarded by Baptists, who instead used pews that were often curved and arranged in concentric arcs that radiated out from the pulpit. This type of
seating continued to be used in new Baptist houses of worship until the 1920s. Another interior feature was the baptistry, as Baptists for the first time began to set aside places inside their houses of worship for immersion of new members.
Historic Preservation 101
Planning for Preservation
Introduction to the National Register
Introduction to Impact Studies
Historic Surveys and Inventories
Historic Preservation and Land Conservation
Integrating Historic Preservation & Land Conservation with
Easements and Acquisitions - A guide to planning for the open space surrounding historic buildings
Historic Property Research: The Paper Trail
Chester County Residential Architecture
19th Century Chester County Residential Architecture
Evolution of Barns in Chester County
Colonial American Religious
Architecture of Quaker Meeting Houses 1670-2000