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From the beginning, the Longwood Meeting was a center of liberal ideals and human rights concerns as its members campaigned to free the slaves. On many occasions, the Meeting House echoed with the voices of nationally famous leaders of the abolitionist movement who journeyed from all over the country to speak. Among them were Thomas Garrett, John Greenleaf Whittier, William Lloyd Garrison (editor of The Liberator), Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, William Henry Channing, and Frederick Douglass. Crowds of sympathetic listeners overflowed to the lawn and steps of the Meeting House to hear these activists speak of freedom for all men and women.
After the Civil War members of Longwood Meeting concentrated their efforts on other humanitarian concerns, such as women's rights, child labor laws, and the kindergarten concept. The Quakers also campaigned against capital punishment, which they strongly opposed.
The Progressive Quakers continued to meet at Longwood Meeting until 1940, when the meeting was "laid down,” or discontinued. (This was the last Progressive Meeting in the United States to be laid down.) The property was purchased that year by Pierre du Pont. Nothing was done with the building until 1947, when slight alterations were made to fit the needs of the Little Theatre Group of Kennett Square. It was used for several years by community organizations.
In 1988 the building was leased to the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau to serve as the Chester County Visitors Center. It is now staffed by informed travel specialists and filled with free literature to help tourists plan their visit to the Brandywine Valley and learn about the Meeting House and the Underground Railroad. In restoring the building for adaptive re-use, Longwood gave careful consideration to maintaining the original architecture. The history and significance of the building (which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places), the courage of the Friends who met here, and the spirit of the people who spoke and listened here will be preserved.
The Longwood Meeting House is open every day of the year from 10 AM–5 PM excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas Days.
Special thanks to the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau for permission to adapt this information from its brochure on the Underground Railroad, and to Frances Cloud Taylor for permission to use parts of her books on the same subject , The Trackless Trail (1976; 36 pages) and The Trackless Trail Leads On (1995; 82 pages). Additional information is available online from the Kennett Underground Railroad Center.
Also thanks to Christopher Densmore, curator, Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College for his expert guidance on the Underground Railroad.
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A team of Longwood Volunteers gathers horticultural highlights from the Outdoor Gardens and Conservatory. Download a pdf of their top picks for the week, including photos and locations.
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Journey to the wild, remote flood plains of South America and to the great gardens of Europe and North America to discover Victoria, the waterlily queen.
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Stand before towering fountains, wander shady groves, see fireworks light up the night sky, and enjoy concerts in the most beautiful outdoor settings.
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