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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.

The History of Baptist Religous Architecture

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.


List of Currently Available Wise Presentations

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

Architecture of Quaker Meeting Houses 1670-2000