Too Hot for Church This Summer? Attend Sunday Services out in the Country! (1891)

Photo181crop.jpgDuring the early 1890s summer services and special gatherings of the Church of the Advent (Academy of the New Church) in Philadelphia took place “out in the country” in what is now the borough of Bryn Athyn. Locations included Knight’s Hill, “Mr. Pendleton’s barn,” and “the evergreens in front of Mr. Schreck’s residence” (see New Church Life 1895, 127). A notice in New Church Life reads as follows: 

“The services of the Church of the Advent, in Philadelphia, will be resumed on the 21st of September, at 565 North Seventeenth Street. Services are being held at Knight’s Hill, Bethayres, Pa., in the neighborhood of which place a number of the members of the Church of the Advent are spending the summer” (New Church Life 1891, 132).

Summers in the (non-air conditioned) cities of the 1890s were very uncomfortable, and those who could do so spent time vacationing in cooler locations. Various members of the Church of the Advent found summer residences in Huntingdon Valley (a portion of which was later incorporated as the borough of Bryn Athyn), while others came out from Philadelphia on the train during the weekends.

knightfarm144crop.jpgJohn Pitcairn had bought the Knight farm (see photo, left) early in 1889, and began construction of his family’s home, Cairnwood, on the site in 1892. Nineteenth of June celebrations took place on Knight’s Hill in 1891, followed by meetings of the Joint Council:

knightshillgroup.jpg“A charming view is afforded from this hill, which is surrounded by an undulating country filled with prosperous farms, where fields of green maize vie with the golden waving grain, while darker clumps of woodland give greater diversity to the scene. The hill is partly wooded, and among the trees on the crest of the hill a commodious tabernacle had been raised; not far off was a dining-tent, and four or five other smaller tents that clustered about the two larger ones helped to give the whole the appearance of a camp, and reminded one forcibly of the time when in the representative Churches men lived in tents, and worshiped the LORD in tabernacles, on high hills and in groves. A temporary repository had been erected in the tabernacle, and was furnished with a copy of the Word, a complete set of the Writings in Latin, and necessary works of reference. These preparations had been made largely in view of the meeting of Councils of the General Church of the Advent of the LORD, which was begun on the 19th of June, and lasted a week” (College Letters, No. 10, August 12, 1891).

In July of 1891 the decision was made to permanently move the Academy’s schools “out to the country,” and the stage was set for the founding of Bryn Athyn, a New Church community. After a considerable amount of planning and construction, the move was accomplished in 1897.

Further Reading:

The E. C. Knight farm appears on this map from the online publication “Early Maps of Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, a New Church Community.”

Bryn Athyn: The Founding of a Religious Community in the Gilded Age

“Cairnwood Featured in New Book about Carrere and Hastings, Architects”

“Farmers Sell Land to John Pitcairn for New Church Community and School (1891)”

Photos: The photo of a New Church gathering on the grounds of Knight’s Hill (Cairnwood), dates to about 1891, and is in the collection of the Glencairn Museum Archives, Bryn Athyn, PA. See here for an identification of the individuals in this photograph. The full database entry for this photo, which comes from the New Church History Image Project’s album titled, “Cairnwood,” can be found here. Compare this photo, also circa 1891. The photo of the Knight farm dates to about 1890, and is in the collection of the Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA. (Cairnwood Photography Project #144)

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July 29, 2007 | Posted by: Ed and Kirsten Gyllenhaal in New Church History Fun Fact