Last year, the FCNL Education Fund assumed governance and management of a historic property on Capitol Hill, the William Penn House. It had operated for several decades as a site for Quaker hospitality.
Although William Penn House remains a separate 501(c)(3), a shared services agreement with the FCNL Education Fund has enabled it to be temporarily closed for extensive repairs.
Recently, the William Penn House board decided to change the name of the building with the recognition that William Penn, a highly regarded Quaker who founded the colony of Pennsylvania, owned slaves.
The board took this step as a way of reckoning with the scourge of slavery and the continued legacy of white supremacy that perpetuates systemic racism. Despite his contribution to U.S. history and his intentions of founding a colony built on “brotherly love,” William Penn owned 12 slaves in his estate, Pennsbury.
The board recognized that it must go beyond changing the name to become anti-racist in its governance and its operations.
In their discernment, the board recognized that it must go beyond changing the name to becoming anti-racist in its governance and its operations.
The board will affirm a new name as it completes the repairs to the building in 2021. It will also develop new education and advocacy opportunities for young adults and all who want to actively work for a just, peaceful, and sustainable world.
Although the COVID–19 pandemic has slowed down the repairs and the re-opening of the house, work on the property continues with Four Brothers General Contractors and GBR Architects.
The board is also pleased to work with a building advisory committee of Friends who have experience in architecture and residential development: Cliff Messner, Benjamin Warnke, and Catherine Stratton Treadway. The contractors estimate that all repairs will be completed in spring 2021.
The board is especially grateful to the donors who have generously contributed to the extensive building repairs. This includes green building features and accessibility to the first floor. Once these repairs are completed, the building will be initially used for virtual programs.
When it will be safe to do so, the property will be used as envisioned in the business plan—civic engagement with overnight accommodations on Capitol Hill, designed to offer experiential education and advocacy engagement for young people (and maybe a few older people) as they work to create a better world.