The Meeting House Law Building & Gallery

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The Meeting House Law Building & Gallery

The Meeting House Law Building & Gallery, formerly known as the Vincent Mennonite Church and the Rohd's Meeting House, is a former Mennonite Meeting House on a site in Spring City, Chester County, Pennsylvania occupied by landmark historical church buildings since at least 1750. The building now houses the law firm of The Mayerson Law Offices, P.C., a museum space, and gallery to be known as The ImaginAIRium.

History

The site was first settled by Johannes Roth (Rhoads) in 1719 as a personal residence for his family. Remnants of the original homestead's origins from as early as the 1730s still exist, as the present building contains a stone inscribed with the date 1735. Based on a grave marker at the site, 1735 is regarded as the date of the founding of the Vincent Mennonite Congregation itself. The first use of the original building as a community meeting house dates to 1750, as recorded by Frederick Sheeder in his 1845 sketch of Vincent Township, stating: "the meeting house that has allways whent by the name of Rohd's this meeting house was built 1750 the old Germans nearly all in the neighborhood".

Due to local land squabbles, no transfer of deed was made by the Rhoads family to the Vincent congregation until 1798. The deed was transferred from the original landholder family to the Congregation on June 12, 1798, when John Roads sold to Henry Acker Sr. and Jacob Finkbiner of the Vincent Mennonite Church "a lot or piece of land situate in the said Township of Vincent, bounded by lands of John Rhoades, containing two acres more or less … for the sum of five shillings".

The original pre-Revolutionary building was razed in 1889, and was replaced the same year by the current building, a stone and stucco church "built a few rods" east of the original building. The Mennonite Meeting House served as a place of worship and sanctuary, and as a school for the education of Christian youths for The Vincent Mennonite Congregation, who met in the original building for 139 years, from 1750 until 1889, and in the current building for 85 more years, from 1889 until 1974. That year, the congregation moved to a site on Seven Stars Road, East Vincent Township.

The present 1889 building, located at the intersection of Mennonite Church Road and Schuylkill Road (PA Route 724), now serves as the law offices of The Mayerson Law Offices, P.C., a regional law firm. Owners Hy Mayerson and Colleen Koos had a “keen sense of history and carefully preserving the historic nature of the old building while fully using it for own purposes”. The building retains the original large internal open space, free from any visible support beams, and original ceiling. The pews were removed upon the firm’s occupation in 1974, and the original doors continue to be used. The owners “chose to preserve the integrity of that historic structure by adding several feet in exactly the same style, windows and all, as the original building”. The design and concept for the addition was developed by Carl Massaro, A.I.A.

Features
Cemetery

The East Vincent Mennonite Church remains the owner of the adjoining Vincent Mennonite Cemetery, also known as Rhoad's (or Rohd's, Rhoads, or Rhoades) Burying Ground, an historical multi-denominational cemetery, where some of the grave markers date as far back as 1759 and 1760. According to local historians, there is a large unmarked mass burial ground on the west side of the cemetery near Mennonite Church Road for Irish laborers who died in an epidemic while building the Schuylkill Canal. It is possible that the land may have been used as a burying ground as far back as the 1730s, as records show that Johannes Roth (Rhoads), who settled the space in 1719, died in 1738, with his first wife having predeceased him. It is reasonable to assume they would have been buried on the land where they lived.

The museum, gallery, and The ImaginAIRium

Since the 1970s, the basement vestry and the building’s Great Room have been used as a performance space by several notable national and local musicians. Some of the earliest music videos had been produced here, and such work, both traditional and experimental, continues today. The basement video studio also was used for fledgling independent television production, and this work as well continues today.

Currently, several works by noted Chester County artist Melvin Goldfield are on display in the gallery of the Great Room, including a life-size gorilla and owl, known as Rosie and Al, hand-carved from an English Walnut tree, several portraits of famous Chester County residents that previously hung in the Main Hall of the Chester County Courthouse in West Chester, Pennsylvania, an original pastel interpretation of Walt Whitman’s poetry collection Leaves of Grass, and a collection of silk-screens of an aging Whitman.

Along the back wall of the building is an excerpt from the United States Declaration of Independence in 12" lettering that reads: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men", referencing the building's current usage as a victims' rights-focused law firm.

Future plans include expanding the building's Great Room to a museum space and gallery to be known as The ImaginAIRium, intended to be "at the crossroads of creativity, theater, and imagination", according to Mayerson. The law firm intends to continue operating in the three-story addition after the museum portion opens to the public.

Melvin Goldfield's Works in The Great Room
  • Hand-carved wood statue of the gorilla Rosie and owl Al.

  • Portrait of General Anthony Wayne.

  • Portrait of abolitionist Frances Harper.

  • Pastel interpretation of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

  • Five silk-screen portraits of an aging Walt Whitman.

Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings added a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via OpenBuildings.com