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Views of Narberth Past

Methodist Church and parsonage, about 1906

Image source: The World Post Card Co. 1008 Walnut St., Philadelphia; collection of David M. Lockwood.

Addresses in view: 316 N. Essex Ave., 314 N. Essex Ave.

modern view of the historical image seen from the same viewpoint
17 Sep 2017

The Beth-Raffen Methodist Episcopal Church was established in 1884 in the pre-Narberth village of Elm by Lutheran residents who had been unable to make an arrangement with St. Paul's Lutheran in Ardmore. Originally part of the Merion Square (today Gladwyne) Circuit, in 1897 Beth-Raffen (the name is carved above the front entrance) became independent as Narberth Methodist Episcopal Church. The church building was dedicated in 1895 and held services until September 1930 when it was replaced by a larger Methodist church newly built at 206 Price Avenue across Essex Avenue.

In what must be the first adpative reuse of a church building in Narberth, it was converted to a residence in 1942 (PDF) by Mr. and Mrs C. Donald Woodward. He was a landscape engineer with the Montgomery County Park Board, and was assisted by Ardmore architect S. Kendrick Lichty. Photos of the interior by a more recent owner can be found at narberthchurch.com.

From United Methodist Church of Narberth records:

In 1881, St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church (Ardmore, PA) had several members who lived in nearby Elm, PA (today known as Narberth, Montgomery County) and who wished to establish a congregation in their own community. Under the auspices that it would be part of the Lutheran Church, land and materials were secured to build a church, but due to a setback, this plan was cancelled in 1882. In 1884, these same residents of Elm decided to try again, but this time they decided to establish their congregation as part of the Methodist Church. The first Board of Trustees was organized in November of that same year, and the church became part of the Merion Square Circuit. The name Beth-Raffen Methodist Episcopal Church was selected in 1885 and its first constitution was adopted in 1886.

After receiving a donation in 1889 from one of the church members, a lot on the corner of Price and Essex Avenues was purchased and construction of a new church building began. When construction was almost complete in 1893, the structure was destroyed by a fire and had to be re-built. The new church building was dedicated in 1895, the same year that Beth-Raffen's charter was approved. In 1897 the congregation changed its name, reflecting the new name of their community, to Narberth Methodist Episcopal Church, and became a separate station (a single congregation, no longer part of the Merion Square Circuit) under the Philadelphia Conference. In 1929, a new church building, designed by Alexander Mackie Adams, was erected and remained in use until the United Methodist Church of Narberth was discontinued in 2013.

From S. F. Hotchkin, Rural Pennsylvania in the Vicinity of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, George W. Jacobs & Co., 1897), pages 70, 74:

The erection of a Methodist Episcopal Church in Narberth was conceived in A. D. 1892, when a legacy was offered of $1,600 "for the purpose of purchasing ground for the erection of a church between Fifty-second Street and Ardmore." Ground was purchased at the corner of Essex and Price Avenues. The corner-stone was laid in November, 1892. When almost completed the church was burned to the ground. In spite of such discouragements the present building was completed and dedicated free of debt in October, 1895. It is an attractive building of stone, tastefully finished and furnished within, and stands on a commanding site.

The Methodist parish of Beth-Raffen had a church building located in the country north of Narberth, and was moved four or five years ago to the borough. Rev. C. H. Basford was in charge at the removal, and the construction of the new building of stone, which was burned in 1893: and the second one was built shortly after, and dedicated free of debt in October, A. D. 1895. D. Judge Denean, of Ardmore, was the architect of both buildings. Rev. T. H. Evans succeeded Mr. Basford, and was pastor at the dedication of the second church. These clergymen lived at Gladwynne, and served the parish there in connection with that at Narberth; but Narberth is now to have its clergyman for itself. Charles E. Kreamer is President and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees, and George Super is Secretary. The Trustees are: Charles E. Kreamer, F. H. Prescott, Jacob Super, S. R. Marriner, George Super, F. Bicking, Jr, T. L. J. Russell, and K. Montgomery.