Benner Memorial Hall and the grounds surrounding it have been, and continue to be, the outcome of work by a group of active and very dedicated community residents.
It all started on January 26, 1932 when the first meeting of the Richlandtown Playground Association was held with 22 community members present. The purpose of the organization was two fold: first, to take over sponsorship of the local baseball team which was previously sponsored by community minded individuals and second, to promote general recreation in the community. The bylaws were written and signed by 8 individuals. The first task the Association took to was build a baseball field and dance floor. They did so on land rented for $50 a year from John Kandel.
In 1935, the Association sponsored a basketball team who played their games on the second floor of Weller’s Carriage House. A state Charter was received in 1939.
1940 was a very eventful year for the Playground Association. To begin the year, the present 13 acres was purchased for the sum of $1500. Also that year, the skating pond was built and James Rapp drew plans for the building that would later become known as Benner Hall. There were many fundraisers going on at the time, such as carnivals, gun shoots, card parties, and dinners.
In 1950, Lewis Brothers was awarded the contract to construct a building for indoor recreational activities, including basketball. Their bid was $25,650. The Playground Association took out a $13,000 loan from Merchant’s Bank and an additional $5,000 from Luther Bader. The balance of funding was covered by bonds that were sold.
The hall was officially dedicated on May 13, 1953 when it was dubbed The Benner Memorial Hall after resident Charles D. Benner, who was killed during World War II.
In its early days, Benner Hall served as the home court of the Quakertown Fays. During the 1950′s, The Fays were a basketball team of the Big Nine Conference. For each home game, they payed a sum of $25 to the Richlandtown Playground Association to rent Benner Hall.
During the Quakertown Fays season of December 1954 - March 1955, their roster included an impressive senior from Overbrook High School in Philadelphia named Wilt Chamberlain known as “The Big Dipper”. Wilt Chamberlain, who would have a “perfect game” in Hershey, go on to play for the Philadelphia 76ers and become an NBA legend, played semi-professional basketball games as a member of the Quakertown Fays.
Under the guidance of the Richlandtown Playground Association, Benner Memorial Hall was home to countless banquets, wedding receptions, fundraisers and other activities over the years.
More recently in 2007, the Richlandtown Borough Parks and Recreation Committee “adopted” the facility to continue its rich heritage. The committee made up of volunteers along with borough council’s help, has been working diligently over the past 5+ years to update and renovate the building, making it an even better facility for the community to use. In recent years, an air conditioning/heating system, ceiling, closets, overhead projection system, painting, parking lot, restrooms and stage have been completed and/or renovated to enhance the atmosphere of the inside of the building.
Future plans include additional improvements, both inside and outdoors, to make this facility more accessible to all members of the surrounding community for a variety of functions. In addition, some of these plans under consideration, will increase the types of events that Benner Memorial Hall will be able to host in the future!
Many thanks to John Kandel for providing much of the information for this page.