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 began on January 26, 1932 with the first meeting of the Richlandtown Playground Association. A total of 22 community members present. The formation of this organization was to take over sponsorship of the local baseball team and for the promotion of general recreation in the community.
The by-laws were written and signed by 8 individuals. The group leased outdoor space from John Kandel for $50.00 a year. Their first task was to build a baseball field and dance floor.
In 1935, the Association sponsored a basketball team who played their home 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 $1500.00, the skating pond was built and James Rapp drew plans up for the construction of a building that would later become known as Benner Memorial 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 erect a building that would be used for indoor recreation activities, including basketball. Their winning bid was $25,650. In order to complete this big project, the Playground Association took out a $13,000.00 loan from Merchant’s Bank. In addition, they borrowed $5,000.00 from Luther Bader. The balance of funding was raised by selling bonds.
On May 13,1953, the new building was dedicated and named Benner Memorial Hall. It was named after Richlandtown 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 that was part of the Big Nine Conference in the region. They payed a sum of $25.00 per game to the Richlandtown Playground Association to rent the facility.
During the season of December 1954 – March 1955, the Fays roster included an impressive 7-foot tall senior from Overbrook High School in Philadelphia. His name was Wilt Chamberlain, also known throughout the area as “The Big Dipper”, played semi-professional basketball as a member of the Quakertown Fays. Later, Wilt Chamberlain would go on to have a “perfect game” in Hershey, turn pro and play for the Philadelphia 76ers and become an NBA legend.
Under the guidance of the Richlandtown Playground Association, Benner Memorial Hall was home to countless banquets, wedding receptions, fundraisers and many 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 7 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, an overhead projection system, painting, repaving of the parking lot, restrooms and stage have been completed and/or renovated to enhance the atmosphere of the inside of the building.
Future plans include more indoor and outdoor improvements to make this facility more accessible to the surrounding community. 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.