Friends General Conference

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Unprogrammed Quakers in Wichita, Kansas

Heartland Friends Meetinghouse

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The Heartland meetinghouse provides 5600 square feet of interior space on two floors.  It has a brick and stucco exterior in prairie style architecture approached on the upper level through a drive-through portico and on the lower level from the parking lot.  

The upper level consists of an entry hallway, a kitchenette, two restrooms, and a large closet to be used for storing folding chairs and meeting-goers coats.  The hearth room with a gas fireplace and bookshelves for the meeting’s library will be used for committee and other small, informal meetings and will be furnished with comfortable seating.  The meeting room is intended to comfortably seat 75 persons and is furnished with padded benches formerly used in the Deer Trail Friends Meeting in Colorado which closed recently.  These are supplemented by vinyl padded chairs, fabric covered arm chairs, and metal folding chairs.  A deck or balcony with metal railing and concrete columns surrounds the meeting room and is accessible through two doors.

The lower level, entered either directly from outside or by an inside stairway, consists of a full kitchen, community meeting room, office, two restrooms, shower, mechanical  and storage rooms.


The vision of a meetinghouse for Heartland Friends Meeting began with one person's dream and concern.  Dorothy Troutman, formerly from Fifty-Seventh Street Friends Meeting in Chicago, and one of Heartland's earliest members shared her vision for a meetinghouse with other Heartland Friends.  In 1990 the meeting established a building fund to receive contributions from those who also hoped for a future building.  Following Dorothy's death in 1995 her family donated $15,000 to Heartland's building fund.

In 1994 Heartland Friends moved the location of their meetings for worship from St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Wichita to Wichita Friends School at its present site.  Heartland Friends became increasingly involved with the operation of the school and began seeking ways to support the school.  Friends came to the conclusion that the meetinghouse they were raising money for ought to be built close enough to Wichita Friends School that it could be used during the week for school meetings for worship, public assemblies, or for classroom or cafeteria use if needed. After several years of exploring ways to buy land adjoining the school, in 1997 Wichita Friends School purchased 12 acres of land from Fawnwood Development for $90,000 and agreed to sell one acre to Heartland for $7,500.  Discussions began about selecting the specific site and drawings and models for a proposed building began to appear.

By 1999 the building fund had grown to $95,000 through regular contributions from the fifteen families of the meeting and funds given as a memorial to Gene Grier by Jane Grier. At that time an anonymous gift of $50,000 was received through the auspices of the Mennonite Mutual Aid association with which the meeting had been investing its building fund.  There was also the promise by the anonymous donor of an additional $90,000 interest-free loan that could be paid over a fifteen-year period. Later, after construction had begun an additional gift of $100,000 was received and the interest-free loan increased to a total of $125,000.

Planning and Volunteer Labor              

Informal discussions before Meeting for Worship on First Day mornings set the directions.  Friends discussed the advice of William Bacon Evans, the plain Friend from Philadelphia, who in the 1950s said that every Quaker meetinghouse should sit at an angle to the streets and buildings around it to remind Friends that if they are true to their leadings they will never be square with the world.  Their neighbors and onlookers will usually view them as headed a bit askew to the world -- moving in a different direction from the society in which they exist. The Heartland meetinghouse is set neither North, South, East or West, but at an angle from visible roads and buildings. Friends called for a building appropriate to our small numbers yet serviceable for generations into the future.  The meetinghouse was to require as little maintenance as possible, be energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, architecturally suitable both to the Kansas prairie and Friends religious practice and use recycled materials where possible. Since the building would serve both the meeting and the school, it must be fully accessible to persons with disabilities.  And it would incorporate the talents, gifts, and artistic design of members and attenders of the meeting.

The architectural design and re-design of the building was produced over several years with donated time by a retired local architect, Howard Rishel, who lives nearby.  When construction began Howard  served as Project Manager for the building.  The General Contractor Kenneth Houston provided a high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail during the construction. The meeting’s Building Committee which saw the project through from beginning to end consisted of Dean Young, Jim Perkins, and Ken Andrew.

It is estimated that over $60,000 of labor has been donated by friends of the meeting so far.  Volunteers spent many hours painting and glazing the walls, sanding, waxing and oiling the woodwork, staining concrete, washing windows, cleaning and scrubbing floors.

Special Touches

A striking interior feature of the meeting house is the use of native walnut custom cut and trimmed for window frames, transoms, and trim throughout the building, as well as wainscoting in the meeting room.  Jim Perkins, a long-time attender and now member of Heartland Meeting, owns and manages a ranch near Howard, Kansas, with a stand of walnut trees.  Some had been sold to commercially loggers, but many either did not meet criteria for commercial logging or were in creek beds or other difficult to access areas. In 1996 Dean Young and Allyson Bowen helped Jim Perkins drag logs from the ranch to the sawmill. On a Saturday workday most of Heartland Meeting met at the sawmill to cut the logs into beams and one-inch planks then carry the cut wood back to the Perkins barns to dry.  Over the next several years Heartland Friends periodically went to help cut trees and saw logs.  In five years some 5,200 rough board feet of walnut was drying in the Perkins barns until ready for use.  

As the  construction progressed the wood was transported to the meetinghouse and sawed, planed and sanded on site.  The General Contractor, Kenneth Houston, and Project Manager Howard Rishel, both helped with the planing and edging of the wood.  The walnut--an estimated 10,000 linear feet--was used for all of the trim in the building which was custom cut and fitted on site. After knotholes and imperfections were filled, Heartland Friends applied a wax mixed with mahogany stain, sanded off excess wax, and rubbed in lemon oil.  Because no varnish or sealer was used the wood will be free to age and mellow so that the grain of the wood will become enhanced over the years.

Dean Young, a sculptor who normally works in Lucite and who was one of the founding members of Heartland Friends, crafted both the meeting room doors, is crafting the ceiling chandeliers  at the entryway and above the stair landing on the main floor, supervised the painting and glazing of the interior walls and stained and treated the concrete floors on the lower level.  The large meeting room doors are made of solid walnut, weigh over 200 pounds each, and required special ball-bearing hinges to carry their weight.  The design carved into the doors is a stylized representation of each person's journey toward God, the center, through uniquely different paths.  On the doors each stroke arrives at the center, but no two are the same.


On the lower floor a concrete retaining wall faces one side of the meetinghouse which has been constructed with windows  facing the retaining wall. The architect who has been involved with planning for the building for several years strongly recommended that this would be an ideal spot for a Quaker mural or appropriate outdoor sculpture.  After Barbara Perkins memorial service contributions were received by the Heartland Building Fund in her memory.  It was decided to place a sculpture and fountain at this site in memory of her.

The artist selected is Shalah Perkins, a rancher from Southeast Colorado who works with bronze in both outdoor and indoor settings. Though the artist is not related to the Perkins family of Heartland, Barbara Perkins did know and enjoy the artist’s Western theme bronze sculptures.  The Wichita Friends School had previously obtained one of her pieces, "First Glimpse of Heaven," depicting a boy and a girl looking upward to the heavens to display on their front driveway.  The sculpture installed for Heartland Friends  is titled, "The Meeting House."  It is a bas-relief mounted on the retaining wall that gradually leaves the wall becoming three-dimensional one-half life size figures.  The sculpture depicts a Quaker meeting for worship with Friends seated on chairs in a circle and an empty seat in the circle representing an invitation to Christ to be a presence in the midst.  A small pool and fountain created out of field stone has been placed below the sculpture along the retaining wall.

A pin-oak tree on the Meetinghouse grounds has been given by the Earlham School of Religion in Barbara Perkins memory.  Barbara was a member of the Earlham Board of Advisors and long-time supporter of the school.

Built into the side of a hill, the meetinghouse offers barrier-free "front door" entrances by auto on both levels. Access to the upper entryway is by a covered drive where auto or van passengers can be protected from the weather as they disembark directly in front of the doors. The meetinghouse provides two fully ADA-compliant restrooms on each level; these were partially funded by a matching grant from Mennonite Mutual Aid.  Persons with disabilities who need to move from one floor to the other can be promptly shuttled by auto between the entrances.

Basic construction of the building was by hollow styrofoam blocks reinforced with steel reinforcing rods and filled with poured concrete.  The styrofoam molds left in place serve as very efficient insulation.  From foundation to ceiling the interior of the building is made of steel and concrete.  There are steel beams in the walls to hang sheet rock on. A poured concrete floor for the top level and ceiling for the lower level is supported by steel beams and provides much more strength, durability, and noise control than wood construction.  All ceilings are well-insulated and all exterior windows and doors are of double-pane glass.

On the exterior of the building eaves, overhangs, and decks are designed to minimize or maximize solar gain depending on season giving more protection from sun in summer and more access to sun in winter.  The building has more mass to hold thermal energy and therefore retains heat or cold longer resulting in more gradual seasonal shifts in temperature.  Burying half the lower level into the hill also takes great advantage of the earth's insulation and exposes less of the exterior to the weather. Ceiling fans in the meeting rooms on both levels are expected to minimize use of air conditioning.

Low Maintenance/Environmentally Friendly

Foam block construction was selected over other construction methods for its long term durability.  The brick exterior, instead of siding, should last generations with little upkeep.  The roof has a life expectancy of 50 years, has been tested against hurricane strength winds, is rated to survive 110 mile per hour wind, and is impervious to hail. Walnut wainscoting in the meeting room provides a low maintenance surface on the portion of the walls that receive the heaviest rubs, touches, and kicks. The wood trim has been waxed and oiled.  Although this will still require an annual workday to re-oil the wood, it should require less cost and effort that periodic painting.

The meetinghouse is one of the first buildings in this area to use thick, slate-like synthetic roofing shingles made of recycled rubber from tires that carry a 50-year warranty.  The deck or balcony around the meeting room on the top floor in a very real way allows the outdoors to become part of the indoors.  During planning the size of the windows was increased and transoms added to allow more light to enter the meeting room.  In landscaping the area around the meeting house, a man-made pond will catch run-off from the neighboring housing development and assist with flood control in the area.

compiled by Jim Lynch  12 April 2003
Heartland Friends Meeting

14505 Sandwedge Circle
Wichita, Kansas 67235
(316) 729-4483