Friends Neighborhood Guild records
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The Friends Neighborhood Guild social settlement was founded by Quakers in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia in 1879; its mission, “...to serve and respond to the needs of the people in its community, particularly those people who are less able to help themselves,” (FNG, p.3). Throughout its more-than-hundred-year history, this mission has guided the Guild’s programs, which have evolved to meet its ever-changing constituents’ needs. At different times, its work has focused on education, Americanization, recreation, housing, community organization and other areas of social need.
The Friends Neighborhood Guild was established in 1879 as the Friends Mission No. 1. It was started by a group of Hicksite Quakers who were concerned over the large numbers of impoverished European immigrants crowding into the neighborhood at the time and, according to the Quakers, living with “no refining influences,” (FNG, p.9). The Mission initially organized as a school that taught “bible and deportment” as well as sewing. When the Mission officially opened its doors in January, 1880, there were fifty-three scholars.
In 1899, its expanding program necessitated a move to larger facilities at 151 Fairmount Avenue, as well as a name change to Friends Neighborhood Guild. By 1901, the Guild’s programs included: kindergarten; manual training; savings fund (bank); Evening Department, which kept children off the streets, offering readings and recreation to eight to sixteen year-olds; sewing school; and First Day School. The Guild sponsored “Reward of Merit Trips” to the Zoological Gardens, Atlantic City and other fun destinations, which rewarded children and adults for their good behavior. There was also a yearly scholarship awarded to a student attending the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Philanthropy, who used the Guild as their practice field. The Guild eventually established a “Fuel Savings Society,” a “Flower, Fruit and Ice Mission,” a dental clinic and a general health program. The health program proved especially important in 1919 during the influenza epidemic. Until 1903, when the Guild hired its first full-time superintendent, Emily Wilbur, all of the above-mentioned programs were staffed by volunteers. The Guild responded to the Great Depression of the 1930s in a couple of ways. Among other things, it opened earlier and closed later, offering opportunity for recreation or simply a place for people to go. Together with the American Friends’ Service Committee, the Guild established the Philadelphia Work Camp in 1934, which among other projects renovated one of the Guild’s buildings and refurbished a neighborhood playground. During World War II, the Guild shifted its focus from a “Boys’ House” to a family center. The arts and the elderly were also given considerably more attention. In fact, the Guild partnered with the Philadelphia Center for Older People, and refurbished a house for that agency at 921 N. Sixth Street.
After World War II, the Guild’s program focus shifted towards vocational guidance; counseling; student aid, in particular the provision of scholarships for leadership; crime prevention, especially the establishment of Franklin House, a halfway house for youths recently discharged from correction with no place else to go; and health programs, including a well baby clinic, dental clinic, free chest x-ray program, sex education and venereal disease prevention/awareness programs.
In the 1950s, an overall concern for the deteriorating inner city and poor housing became central to the Guild’s mission. In 1952, the Bedford Street Mission, which taught self-help home and furniture refurbishing, affiliated with the Guild and moved into the basement of a Guild-owned building at 735 Fairmount Avenue. Around the same time, the Guild helped organize a large scale urban renewal effort in the Poplar section of the neighborhood, which was selected by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority. On a private level, the Guild partnered with the American Friends Service Committee and established a housing co-operative. They acquired a row of dilapidated houses to convert into apartment units, and hired architect Oscar Stonorov (already well known for his design for the public housing units called the Carl Mackley Houses) to design the project. The laborers used to actually complete the construction were the future tenants of the apartments. Shortly after the completion of the cooperative apartments, the Guild embarked on the construction of Guild House, an apartment building for the elderly. This building, which was built on Spring Garden Street and completed in 1966, was a modern apartment house with ninety-one units, an elevator, community room and other useful amenities.
In the 1960s, the Guild, which was still entirely governed by Quakers, was faced with backlash from the community who wished for a greater say in the administration and programming of the settlement. Members of the Black Panthers held sit-ins at Board Meetings and held a conference at the Guild headquarters. As a result, eventually, the Guild created a parallel Community Board, which worked in conjunction with the existing board. This proved a poor solution to the problem, forcing the organization to change its by-laws in order to establish a new board comprised equally of both Quakers and community members.
All of the activity spurred by the Black Power movement instigated a change in the focus of the Guild’s programs towards community organization, and it began to take leadership roles in organizing the community to solve the problems facing the neighborhood. For example, when the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Reading Railroad wanted to construct a tunnel connecting the commuter lines that ran right through the neighborhood, the Guild instituted the “Stop the Tunnel Committee.”
By the 1970s, the Guild’s programs and/or affiliations had expanded to include: Association for the Improvement of the Richard Allen Homes, Crime Prevention and Protection Service, Consumer Protection Program, Welfare Rights Organization, Stoddart-Fleisher Academic Alternative Program, Health Center, Neighborhood Youth Corps, summer camps, welfare reform and others. The National Federation of Settlements selected the Guild to act as one of five pilot programs of the Preparing Teenagers for Parenthood, which was designed to help young people make good decisions about sex and was a successful program. In 1979, The Guild opened Guild House West, which was another housing facility built for the elderly.
In the 1980s, the Guild was selected by the Greater Philadelphia Federation of Settlements to run the following programs: Services to Children In Their Own Homes and Day Treatment Program for Adjudicated Youth. In addition, it continued to run camp for music, art and reading; after school programs, which included art, dancing, ceramics; sewing and drama. According to their website, in 2007, Friends Neighborhood Guild offered or was affiliated with the following programs: adult education, after school enrichment program, community learning center, food pantry, neighborhood Energy Center, Philadelphia Freedom School, and a truancy prevention program.
“A Century Plus of Service, 1879-1989,” [Box 6, Folder 44], Friends Neighborhood Guild records, Accession 1008, Temple University Urban Archives.
The Friends Neighborhood Guild records dates from 1903 to 2004, with the bulk of materials dating from the second half of the twentieth-century. The records evidence the social programs and activities of the Guild, as well as its relationships with other agencies, such as the Greater Philadelphia Federation of Settlements, Philadelphia Housing Authority, and the United Way. In addition to general administrative records and meeting minutes, there is a nice collection of candid snapshots of Guild activities and scrapbooks that document Guild work from the 1950s to 1960s. Researchers interested in the history of settlement houses and social welfare programs, or in the history of the Northern Liberties/Kensington neighborhoods of Philadelphia during the twentieth century would find this collection useful.
The collection is divided into six series: “Administrative Records,” “Photographs and Scrapbooks,” “Affiliated Agencies,” “Program Files” and “Audio/Visual materials.” The last series, “Client in-take files,” is not open for research.
The first series of this collection, “Administrative Records,” which dates primarily from 1960 to 2002, is divided into eleven subseries: “Meeting Minutes,” “Correspondence,” “Agreements and proposals for services,” “Financial Records,” “Grants and other Funding,” “Memoranda,” “Personnel Records,” “Planning Studies,” “Publications,” “Retirement Plan Records” and “Subject Files.”
The first subseries, “Meeting Minutes,” contains minutes and related records for meetings of the Board of Directors, numerous committees and special projects or programs. The files are arranged alphabetically by name of the committee or program, with Board of Directors’ meetings filed first. The Board minutes encompass the bulk of the subseries, which spans from 1967 to 2002.
The second subseries, “Correspondence,” contains incoming and outgoing correspondence of Friends Neighborhood Guild from 1989 to 2002. First, researchers will find a few files containing general correspondence. Next, there is one file of correspondence belonging to Philip Fazah, an employee of the Guild. Following that, are files of correspondence regarding specific topics, such as the annual appeal, the Board of Directors, the Richard Allen Council, and the United Way. The correspondence also includes some examples of bulk mailing letters sent by Friends Neighborhood Guild on a variety of topics from 1991 to 1997.
The third subseries, “Agreements and proposals,” contains agreements and proposals related to the contracting of Friends Neighborhood Guild services. There are proposals for grants and program development. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by record type and dates from from 1990 to 1996. The fourth subseries, “Financial Records,” documents Friends Neighborhood Guild’s financial activity from 1933 to 2003. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by record type, with budget, journal, and payroll records from 1987 to 1996 representing the bulk of material. There are also year-end financial statements from 1980 to 2001, filed under the headings Audit report and/or Financial statements.
The fifth subseries, “Grants and other funding,” houses records related to obtaining funding from major grant agencies such as Pew Charitable Trusts, Hunt Manufacturing Company and the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office, as well as more grassroots donor appeal campaigns. The files are arranged alphabetically by either the title of the funded project or the funding agency, with other files mixed in that are filed by document type. Major programs represented include “From Soup to Nuts,” a nutrition program, the Leadership Development and Training program, and the Summer Arts Enrichment Program.
The sixth subseries, “Memoranda,” contains memoranda put out or received by the Board of Directors and various offices and committees from 1985 to 1997. The memoranda are arranged by subject and/or recipient. Memoranda to the Board of Directors, Executive Committee, Financing Committee, Housing Committee, Nominating Committee, Program Committee and Resource and Development Committee are all included in this subseries. “Personnel records,” the seventh subseries dates from 1971 to 1999. Researchers will find lists of Board members and a file related to a Board retreat in 1996. In addition, there are employee contracts and descriptions of positions. There are also a series of blank human resources forms. There are personnel files for individual employees, which are restricted and filed at the end of the subseries. It is arranged alphabetically by document type.
The eighth subseries, “Long-range and other strategic planning studies,” contains records related to long-term planning of the Friends Neighborhood Guild. The studies, among other things, analyze the need for and success of Guild services and programs. There is data related to the surrounding neighborhood, long-range planning, and the Friends Neighborhood Guild’s “Three-year plan” from 1986. It is arranged by the subject of each study, and spans from 1961 to 1994.
The ninth subseries, “Publications,” contains published material produced by Friends Neighborhood Guild. It is arranged alphabetically by type or name of publication, and includes Annual Reports, and issues of the “Friends Neighborhood Guild Reporter,” and“The Neighbor.” The subseries also contains a booklet on the history of Friends Neighborhood Guild from 1903.
The tenth subseries, “Retirement Plan Records,” contains documents related to Friends Neighborhood Guild’s employee retirement plans from 1946 to 1991. There are a few files related to one of the Guild’s earliest pension plans, followed by a group of correspondence and related records pertaining to a later plan offered by National Health and Welfare. Following these files are alphabetically arranged subject files pertaining to a later plan offered by Mutual of America. The subseries also contains records related to payroll from 1990. The eleventh subseries, “Subject Files,” contains records of numerous Guild activities and organizations with which Friends Neighborhood Guild was involved. The subseries is arranged alphabetically, and includes material on Friends Neighborhood Guild’s Annual Day celebration, Freedom School, and youth services. Of note are files documenting protests of the placement of a new drug rehabilitation center in the neighborhood in 1990, maps of the surrounding area, and Wister School Committee information. The subseries spans from 1952 to 2003. Researchers are advised to peruse the folder list for additional details.
The second series, “Photographs and Scrapbooks,” contains photographs, negatives, color slides and scrapbooks that document the activities, programs and company environment of Friends Neighborhood Guild. The series is divided into two subseries: “Photographs” and “Scrapbooks.” The “Photographs” subseries is grouped by type of visual image, of which there are three: snapshots, portraits and color slides. Snapshots offer candid photographs of activities and programs, while portraits are posed photographs of Friends Neighborhood Guild staff, participants in events and activities, and influential people related to the organization. Similarly, color slides also depict events in the life of the organization. The groups of images are each arranged in loose alphabetical order by event name, personal name and /or subject. Newspaper clippings, photographs and records relating to programs of Friends Neighborhood Guild make up the “Scrapbooks” subseries. The images date from 1945 to 2000, with the bulk of the materials dating between the 1960s and 1990s.
“Affiliated Agencies,” the third series, consists of records relating to Philadelphia region social service organizations that either collaborated with Friends Neighborhood Guild, or contributed to its programs. Three subseries are included in this series: “Greater Philadelphia Federation of Settlements,” “Pennsylvania Abolition Society” and “Philadelphia Housing Authority.” The “Greater Philadelphia Federation of Settlements” subseries is arranged alphabetically and contains contracts, financial records, funding requests and other documents regarding the settlement organization. The records date from 1985 to 1997. “Pennsylvania Abolition Society,” the second subseries, contains primarily correspondence and scholarship information, and is arranged alphabetically. The third subseries, “Philadelphia Housing Authority,” holds records concerning the Ludlow area, the Richard Allen Homes housing project, and testimonies regarding public housing developments in Philadelphia. Arranged alphabetically, the records date from 1990 to 1996.
The fourth series, “Program Files,” contains records of various programs administered by the Friends Neighborhood Guild or of which they were affiliated. Major programs represented include the Bedford Homes Workshop, Friends Rehabilitation Program, and the United Way, which was a direct financial sponsor for many of the projects and programs originating from Friends Neighborhood Guild. Records are arranged alphabetically and date from 1951 to 2004. However, the bulk of documents date from 1980 to the early 2000s.
The last series in the collection, “Audio/Visual materials,” consists primarily of public service announcements, and tapes regarding topics such as the Gingrich Plan of 1995, children and youth. The series is predominantly VHS tapes; however there are a few cassette tapes and some LP records.
Gift of the Friends Neighborhood Guild, 2004
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
This collection was minimally processed in 2009-2011, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article, More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections, the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages, in 23 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 2-3 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections, replace acidic folders or complete any preservation work.
- Temple University Libraries Special Collections Research Center
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Megan Good, Forrest Wright and Courtney Smerz
- Finding Aid Date
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
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This collection is open for research use; however, some files are restricted and/or closed. Please consult the archivist for more information regarding restricted/closed files.
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