About the Friends Meeting House
In 1701, Mary Coffin Starbuck became interested in the faith of the Quakers after hearing itinerant Quaker preacher John Richardson speak before a crowd of Nantucketers.
It was in her house, situated now at 10 Pine Street, that early Quaker meetings took place. In the years after 1708, the Nantucket Meeting outgrew a series of meetinghouses, the largest being the Great Meeting House on the site of the Quaker Burial Ground at the end of Main Street.
Quakerism gradually became the dominant religion of a majority of island residents during the most prosperous days of the whaling industry.
Quakerism declined in the nineteenth century, partly as a result of its own internal divisions. The Nantucket Meeting broke into three different sects, each of which held separate meetings: the Hicksites, the Gurneyites, and the Wilburites.
The Friends Meeting House on Fair Street, also called the Quaker Meeting House, was erected in 1838 as a school for the Wilburite Sect. It was later converted to a meeting house.
The NHA purchased the building from the Friends in 1894, and it became the NHA’s first museum. In the 1940s, Quakers on Nantucket formed a worship group, and with the permission of the NHA began to meet, informally, once more in the meeting house.
Learn more about the history of Quakers on Nantucket