Byberry Meeting Byberry Hall Phase One

Byberry Hall during the Walk for Peace, 1958. Courtesy of the Byberry Friends.

Byberry Hall was constructed in 1846 by Robert Purvis and Harriet Purvis, a wealthy African American couple, who were leading abolitionists and promoters of women’s rights. The Purvises moved to Byberry from downtown Philadelphia in fear of their lives during the 1842 race riots. The Purvises were said to have saved as many as 9000 people through the underground railroad.

Byberry Hall was intended from the beginning as a space to speak freely in community meetings, educational lectures and debates. It was a rural center at which the Purvises hosted abolitionists from throughout the northeast. These included William Lloyd Garrison, James and Lucretia Mott, and Fredrick Douglass.

A Historic Preservation Plan for the Byberry Friends’ Meeting Complex completed by Kate Cowing Architect LLC found Byberry Hall in the worst condition of the buildings. It suffered from excessive moisture infiltration and structural damage. Additionally, deterioration of the exterior entrance steps and a structural failure had forced the closure of the building until repairs were completed. Due to budgetary constraints, Phase 1 of its restoration is stabilization and addressed the most pressing issues such as water in the basement, roof replacement, structural repairs and reconstructing the entry steps. This project is being partially funded by a Keystone Historic Preservation Fund grant.

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