Candace Shattuck - October 2009
Third Haven: A 325-Year-Old Gem Hidden in the Heart of Easton
At the end of a long lane at 405 South Washington Street in the heart of Easton lies a peaceful seven-acre oasis occupied by Third Haven Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. The “crown jewel” of the property is the Old Meeting House, constructed 1682-84 and in continuous use since that time.
When this building was constructed, Talbot had been a county for barely two decades. The population was less than 2,000, with a significant number of them being Quakers. American Indians still lived here. Roads were virtually nonexistent, so most travel took place over water. In fact, for its first century, Third Haven was accessible only by water; land for the lane was only acquired in 1792. A particular kind of boat called a shallop is mentioned, one called Long Taile and another called Good Will, as the primary transport.
“The wonderful thing is,” says a long-time member of the Meeting, “that this place is still relevant, after all these years.” Many say the Old Meeting House is a special place to worship, that they can virtually feel the presence of many past generations worshipping in this space. There is a sense of continuity and timelessness that can be very comforting.
Despite a 1797 addition that gives the building an asymmetrical “saltbox” profile, the Old Meeting House looks today much as it must have in 1684. There are ancient beams with marks of the hand tools used to shape them. Wide boards from first-growth trees. Old wooden benches, hand-made rippled window glass. As in early times, there is still no heat, running water or electric power.
Thus the building is used primarily in warm weather. For cold weather, members migrate a few feet to the “new” Meeting House, a brick structure built in 1880. It has heat, electricity and running water, and is a gem also, of a newer and different variety. Other buildings on the property include a Common Room (1982), a home for the resident caretakers, and an 1867 building known as “Sarah’s Cottage,” now used for storage. Also on the property is a graveyard that dates to early times. Gone is a carriage shed that for many years stood near the Old Meeting House.
In the early 1990s the building underwent major renovations with the help of the Maryland Historical Trust. A new foundation was built, rotting wood replaced, and a new roof installed. Wherever possible, the original materials were used, the goal being to preserve the old building in as close to original form as possible and to make it available for current and future generations.
The community of Quakers worshipping at Third Haven has grown in recent years. Says Clerk (lay leader) John Schreiner, “This building is a real treasure, and we are grateful to have it. We welcome visitors, either to join us for worship or just to see the property. For groups, we are happy to provide a guided tour if arrangements are made in advance (410-822-0293).
“We are, in a sense, hidden at the end of the lane. Many people who have lived here for a long time have never seen the property. We invite anyone interested in knowing us better to come down that lane and visit. Our intent is not to hide our light under a barrel. We like to be seen as an active part of today’s Talbot County.”