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  early churches of New Jersey

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Salem Friends meetinghouse


Salem, Salem County
Broad Street
founded 1676, built 1772

The meetinghouses in Salem, Haddonfield and Burlington were the most important ones, organizationally speaking, in the state during the eighteenth century; they were the sites of the Quarterly Meetings where important decisions were taken. The Salem Meeting began in 1676, shortly after John Fenwick's initial settlement. The burial ground on the west side of Market Street is part of the original 16 acre tract that was given by Fenwick to the Society. Meetings were initially held in private homes, and in 1681, in a renovated dwelling. By 1685 Salem was the site of Monthly, Quarterly and special meetings, so a fairly substantial structure was needed. There is no description of that initial building, but by 1698 it also was too small and so it was decided to build a new one. That building was enlarged in 1717, and served for more than 50 years. In 1772 the present building was erected by William Ellis, a professional builder from Philadelphia. Many of the accounts and receipts in Ellis' hand still survive.
     The building is a fine example of the archetypal Quaker meetinghouse of the late eighteenth century; perfectly symmetrical, it is a six-bay, two story brick building of Flemish bond. The pent roofs over the entrances have fine Neoclassical pediments, with transom windows over the entrances. Even the doors have louvered shutters, which is quite unusual. The 1772 date, in a glazed brick pattern, can be seen high on the gable on the left side of the meetinghouse. Because of the setback and the much taller buildings surrounding it, this meeting house gets a bit lost on the main street of Salem today.
     The orthodox group expelled the Hicksites in 1828, but as they were in the minority, they had to leave; in 1857 they built a stylish brick meetinghouse on West Broadway, which was used until 1941. Sold and much modified, it now stands at 107 West Broadway.