The 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse Museum preserves, maintains, and interprets the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse as a national site of conscience and a cornerstone of historic movements for equal rights, social justice, and peace, including rights for Native Americans, African Americans, and women, inviting visitors to explore issues of equality and justice in their own lives.
Adopted 2012, rev. 2014
Do you love history? Are you concerned about social justice? Would you like to know more about the remarkable story of how people in upstate New York challenged the nation and the world to implement ideals of equal rights and respect for all people? Then join us in working to restore and interpret the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse in Farmington, New York.
The 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse was a cradle of movements for equal rights for all people, especially Native Americans, African Americans, and women. We invite visitors to connect these historic ideals of equality with work for social justice in their own lives. Although the 1816 Meetinghouse is still a work in progress, we serve hundreds of visitors each year through programs and tours, both onsite and offsite.
Our goal is to restore the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse as a museum and interpretive center focusing on the history of reform in upstate New York and creating a space for civil discussion of equal rights for all people, past and present. Restoration of this Meetinghouse will create an intact, sustainable structure, which can be maintained indefinitely with minimal regular maintenance. In 2022, we received a grant of $483,727 from the Historic Preservation Fund (administered by the National Park Service) for historic sites relating to equal rights, to help restore this Meetinghouse.
With your help, the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse will continue to promote conversation about core American ideals. You will also help create an engine of economic development, bringing people from around the country and the world to consider themes of equality and justice—past, present, and future—in the Finger Lakers region of upstate New York, a place of special beauty and amazing energies that we call home.
Today, the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, and the National Collaborative of Women’s History Sites.
Read on to learn more about 1) the national importance of the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse; 2) history of this project; and 3) long-range plans.
National Importance of the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse
The 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse reflects the national struggle of Americans to define the meaning of the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal.” Between the Revolution and the Civil War, people affiliated with this Meetinghouse (including European Americans, African Americans, and Native Americans) made Farmington a crucible for debates about freedom and equality for all. In particular, they helped create three nationally significant movements:
a) woman’s rights. People associated with the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse were at the core of the national women’s rights movement. In 1848, asserting that “all men and women are created equal,” they helped organize the country’s first woman’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York. Without them, the organized women’s rights movement would have started somewhere else. After the Seneca Falls convention, people associated with Farmington continued their women’s rights work by creating the National Woman Suffrage Association. Major national women’s rights leaders (including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony) spoke in this Meetinghouse.
b) Native American rights. Based on a long pattern of cooperation between Quakers and Native Americans, Farmington Quakers worked with Seneca Indian leaders to promote Native American rights. Meeting in the 1816 Farmington Meetinghouse, Seneca leaders and Quakers from Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and western New York created a national grassroots movement to save Seneca lands in western New York after the fraudulent Treaty of Buffalo Creek in 1838. As a result of reports, petitions, and personal visits to national politicians, they helped negotiate a compromise treaty in 1842. As a result, Seneca people kept their homelands at Allegany and Cattaraugus, preventing a “Trail of Tears” like the one that sent thousands of Cherokee and others to Oklahoma. In 1857, Tonawanda Seneca people made a separate agreement by which they retained their homelands at Tonawanda.
c) African American rights. Farmington Quakers worked with nationally known abolitionists (both European American and African American) to promote equal rights for African Americans. They created a major node on the Underground Railroad, and they worked in local, regional, and national antislavery societies. As core organizers of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society, they invited nationally known leaders such as Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Charles Lenox Remond to speak in Farmington. At their invitation, Douglass came to Rochester in 1847 to set up the North Star. Freedom seekers such as Austin Steward, William Wells Brown, and Mary and Emily Edmondson lived in Farmington. Farmington Quaker women organized antislavery fairs, which drew support from women in Boston, London, and elsewhere. Myrtilla Miner, who started a school for African American girls in Washington, D.C., received inspiration from the biracial Bird’s Nest School started by Quaker women in Farmington.
The 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse is also architecturally important as one of the earliest and largest meetinghouses west of the colonial settlement line. It is likely the largest pre-Erie Canal building in western New York.\
This Meetinghouse is part of the Farmington Quaker Crossroads Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places at the national level of significance (2007-04-25, 07000384). The Meetinghouse is also listed on the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom and is part of the National Collaborative of Women’s History Sites and the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.
Efforts to Restore the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse
Local people have been concerned for decades about this Meetinghouse, but not until 2006 did a group organize formally to restore it. In February 2006, a windstorm blew off the east wall (already weakened when a car damaged the framing structure) of the Meetinghouse. Emergency stabilization saved the building, but the Meetinghouse stood open to the weather for almost four years. Roof and clapboards sustained considerable damage, as did interior plaster, woodwork, and galleries.
In spite of damage over the years, 80 to 90 percent of the framing structure (including American chestnut) remains. Many original elements were preserved after a local farmer converted the building to a barn in 1927. He stored about half the original windows inside the meetinghouse, used the interior movable room dividers to build a small storage room (still intact), raised the first floor to create a second floor, and covered the original clapboards with asphalt shingles. This work preserved much of the original fabric of the building, including windows, woodwork, chamfered posts, and some of the interior plaster.
Architects and historians have completed extensive research on this meetinghouse. John G. Waite Associates prepared a conditions assessment report (2006). Working with Historical New York Research Associates, they completed the Historic Structure Report in 2017. The Meetinghouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places at the national level of significance and on the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. We are also members of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.
We are immensely grateful to funders who have helped us so far, including the New York State Environmental Protection Fund, National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, Preservation League of New York State, Rochester Area Community Foundation, Canandaigua National Bank and Trust Community Bank, Heritage New York Women’s History Trail, New York State Council on the Arts, Chace Fund of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and many, many local and statewide groups and private individuals.
In December 2010, supporters stabilized, enclosed, and vented the building, with assistance from the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom program, matched by private donations from the Rochester Area Community Foundation, Canandaigua National Bank, and many private individuals.
The Farmington Town Planning Board, with the help of Ron Brand, Farmington planner, worked with us for a year on our site plan and State Environmental Quality Review.
In November 2011, we moved the Meetinghouse across the road. In 1927, the building was moved 325 feet north of its original site. This meant that the Meetinghouse stood on private land, now for sale, not easily accessible to public audiences. The pre-1927 site was no longer available, but the current Farmington Friends Meeting gave us 3.5 acres of land across the street, a site very similar to the original location of the Meetinghouse, still within the Farmington Quaker Crossroads Historic District.
On a beautiful day in November, with seventy-degree weather, Wolfe Brothers House and Building Movers moved the Meetinghouse to its new site. About 100 people watched the stately progress of this Meetinghouse as it moved across the field and road. We celebrated the move with a traditional Haudenosaunee thanksgiving, recited by Peter Jemison, Seneca, and heard talks by people representing Rev. Jermain Loguen (who most likely came through Farmington on the Underground Railroad), Susan B. Anthony (who came often to Farmington) and by current supporters, including Ted Fafinski, Farmington Supervisor; Sean Hanna, New York State Assemblyman; Steve Martin, Canandaigua Bank; and Tania Werbizsky, Preservation League of New York State.
Reflecting the importance of this region to America’s definition of itself as a multicultural nation, the National Advisory Board of the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse includes historians, historic preservationists, philanthropists, and descendents of nineteenth century activists. People of color (both African American and Native American) make up one-third of this Board. Women form half of it. This Board helps us reach out to regional and national communities, building a base with which to attract heritage tourists.
This Meetinghouse is part of a chain of sites of conscience that stretches across central New York, including sites relating to Native Americans, African Americans, and women’s rights. We are working to link these sites into heritage tourism trails.
Long Range Goals.
Restoration of the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse will create an educational and interpretive center, open regularly to the public, attracting about 10,000 people annually, to bring awareness of the historic importance of pre-Civil War reform movements in upstate New York to the nation and the world. The Meetinghouse will also be used as a center for public discussion of the meaning of equal rights and nonviolent social change in America today and as an engine of economic development through heritage tourism.
Restoration of this Meetinghouse is connected to a regional effort to promote heritage trails relating to the Underground Railroad, women’s rights, and Native American rights. We work closely with Ganondagan, Women’s Rights National Historical Park, the National Collaborative of Women’s History Sites, the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, the Underground Railroad Consortium of New York State, and the Women’s Rights Alliance of New York State. We hold several programs each year, funded by Humanities NY and other sources, in conjunction with area historic sites and libraries (including Wood Library, Ganondagan, Sonnenberg Gardens, Granger Homestead, Cobblestone Theater, and Farmington Friends Church).
The Meetinghouse currently gives several tours and programs each year, attracting several hundred people. It is owned and operated by the not-for-profit 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse Museum. Long-term plans call for reconstructing a committee building that once stood at the rear of the Meetinghouse, for use as Visitor Center.
Passionate About Our History
The Meetinghouse is a fixture in our historical landscape and a touchstone as we interpret and carry out our mission.