April 24 Presentation: Camp Meetings & Chautauquas

America’s 19th Century Back to Nature Movement

Presented by Robert J Wise, Jr, Architectural Historian and Chair of West Vincent Township Historical Commission

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

West Vincent Township Building at 7PM


People may know the well-known camp meetings and Chautauquas – Oak Bluff, MA, Ocean Grove, NJ and Chautauqua NY. But did you know there are several in Southeast Pa? And that most share a communal plan around a central green and meeting hall, surrounded by cabins that were often originally tents? Many camp meetings were started by the Methodists in the mid-19th century, such as Con-cord and Chester Heights Camp Meetings in Delaware County. Perkasie Camp Meeting, in Bucks Co. was non-denominational. Mt. Gretna, near Hershey, started as a Chautauqua; a camp meeting was then built next to it.

Robert Wise has documented camp meetings from Eagles Mere, PA to South-eastern Pennsylvania, helping to list four on the National Register of Historic Places. Come learn about a fascinating part of American history, their incredible architecture, and discover what happened to these once remote destinations – made possible in part by railroads – where people once visited by the thou-sands, and what’s there today.

During the late 19th century West Vincent churches hosted revivalist meetings. Although not the same as camp meetings, there will be information on display highlighting the history of these local events.

Robert J. Wise, Jr., Principal Senior Architectural Historian at Richard Grubb & Associates, has been professionally active in historic preservation for over 30 years. He has an MS in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania, MBA from Penn State, and a BA in History from Dickinson College. Mr. Wise provides project management and directs cultural resource investigations for RGA. Previously Mr. Wise operated Wise Preservation Planning, LLC and was senior planner at the Brandywine Conservancy’s Environmental Management Center.

Mr. Wise has served on many boards and is current Chair of the West Vincent Township Historical Commission and Board Member of the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, and the Stuart Tank Memorial Association in Berwick, PA, and past President of the Chester County Historic Preservation Network.