During the first half of the 20th century, Springfield Friends Meeting didn’t have a parsonage. Our earliest pastors lived in their own family homes. One of our longest-serving pastors, Clara I. Cox, lived with her parents during the 22 years she was at Springfield.
When Clara Cox died in 1940, the meeting realized the need for a parsonage for their new pastor. During the war years it was difficult to obtain building materials. Also, Springfield had only recently paid off the mortgage on the “new” 1927 meetinghouse, after years of hardship during the Great Depression. Then in 1942, the meeting suffered a fire which caused major damage..
For all these reasons, the parsonage was not built until 1944. It is a substantial 2-story brick building facing East Springfield Road, with 3 bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, and a living room, dining room, kitchen, study and half bath downstairs. The first occupants were pastor Milton Hadley and his family, who lived there from 1945-1951. They were followed by Millard Jones (1951-1954) and David Stanfield (1954-1961).
Max and Avis Rees lived in the parsonage for 35 years from 1961 to 1996. A one-story addition was built in 1965 to accommodate their large family. During the Rees years, the parsonage was more than just the pastor’s home. It became the hub of many social activities of the meeting. Circle meetings, committees, Sunday School classes and youth fellowship often met there, while many people at Springfield remember meals at the Rees family’s table. The built-in garage proved to be narrow and cramped, and there was always the danger of fire from gasoline vapors, so a new 2-car garage was built in 1995.
Up until the 1970s, Springfield was overwhelmingly a “neighborhood church”. Many meeting families lived within easy walking distance of the meetinghouse, or close by in Archdale and Trinity. Growing prosperity led many families to move to new homes farther away, and the parsonage ceased to be a center for neighborhood life.
The meeting rented out the parsonage to tenants for many years. While this provided some much-needed income, as a rental property neglect and pet damage became major problems. By the time the last tenants moved out in 2015 roof leaks, water leaks, flooding, damaged floors and other problems had nearly ruined the building.
The parsonage was completely renovated in 2016. Plumbing, electrical and other work was done to bring the building up to code. The floors were sanded and refinished, the basement was waterproofed and a ramp at the side made the building more accessible. A new HVAC system was installed in 2018. The renovation was expensive, but it turned the parsonage from a liability back into a major asset for the meeting again.
One unexpected consequence of the renovation was that our neighbors noticed the changes, and began to spruce up their own properties. Every home on Springfield Road between the meetinghouse and Brentwood Street saw major improvements – new roofs, outdoor plantings, even simple things like outdoor Christmas lights were seen again. Although Springfield is no longer made up of families from the neighborhood, the neighborhood has stabilized and greatly improved. Petty crime, vandalism and the sale and use of drugs have decreased.
No one can predict the future, but having the parsonage occupied by a staff member has major benefits to the meeting. Not only does it allow the meeting to help out the budget by providing a substantial non-cash benefit, it provides on-site security and, by stabilizing the neighborhood, improves the security of the entire meeting property.