Albert Akin did what no other person has ever done, and to the best of our knowledge, no one has ever done since his time. He did not endow a church, a hospital, or an educational institution. Instead, he endowed a community.
The Akin Hall Association was founded on July 12, 1880, by Albert J. Akin and other prominent members of the Quaker Hill community. It began with a board of sixteen members, including five trustees who oversaw the operation of the Association. Incorporated on July 12, 1880, Annual Meetings of the board are held on August 14, Albert Akin’s birthday.
According to its charter, the “particular business” of the Akin Hall Association is: “the promotion of benevolence, charity, literature, science and mutual improvement in religion and all kindred cultivation and knowledge, and, the providing and maintaining of a place or places of education, moral training, and worship.” These goals, the charter further stated, were to be accomplished via “a library, by preaching, by lecturing or other appropriate means, and by rendering aid and assistance moral and pecuniary to any and all such other cognate efforts as may be made in furtherance of any of the objects hereof through the association of individuals or otherwise.”
Since 1880, the Association has been dedicated to these principles, keeping alive Quaker Hill’s traditions of religious inquiry, intellectual cultivation, and philanthropy.
Akin Hall was dedicated a year after the Association had been founded, on July 13, 1881—the same year that the Mizzen Top Hotel opened to the public. From the beginning, Akin Hall was used as a central meeting place for Quaker Hill community: a cultural center that provided far more than just religious services.
Albert Akin had stipulated that Akin Hall should not be formally consecrated so it would remain non-denominational, and collections were not to be taken up during services (a small, unobtrusive box by the door served to receive all donations).
Its original executive director, Edward Ryder, helped establish the Akin Hall’s library, which was housed in one of the front rooms until a separate building could be built.
The Akin Hall Association also oversaw the Quaker Conferences of 1899-1908, the brainchild of Margaret Monahan, who hosted the conferences during their ten-year run.
As the Reverend Warren Wilson wrote of Akin, “It was his intention to create an institution of the broadest purpose, through which could be carried on activities of a religious, literary, educational, benevolent, and generally helpful order.”
After his death, Albert Akin left an endowment for the Association, and it continued to act as a beacon for the community—among other acts during this time, the AHA paid for electricity to be brought to Quaker Hill. But the community had its setbacks during this period as well: a fire ran through the Akin Hall in the 1930s, and the Mizzen Top Hotel had become a financial drain—it was demolished in 1934; its cottages were sold off in 1942.
It would be the internationally famous broadcaster Lowell Thomas who would come to the AHA’s rescue. In 1941 Thomas made several major contributions to the Association’s endowment; he also helped finance the move of Akin Hall itself from its original location to its present home, on the former site of the Mizzen Top Hotel. Akin Hall has since been renovated and converted into Christ Church on Quaker Hill. Initially the Association covered fees for the operation of Christ Church.
With the addition of Lowell Thomas to the board, the number of trustees grew from 5 to 11; there are currently 20 trustees. All the while, the Akin Hall Association continued to contribute philanthropically to a number of community causes, but as a 1951 history of the Association noted: “Many of its efforts have been conducted so quietly that they have not been noticed by the community.”
Among these philanthropic activities, for many years the AHA informally provided scholarship assistance to local high school students. The Reverend Ralph C. Lankler first proposed giving scholarships to deserving high school students, and while the sums were initially small, they were increased greatly.
Today, the Akin Hall Association continues its mission of the furtherance of cultural and benevolence for the Quaker Hill area and the greater town of Pawling. The Akin Hall Association continues to provide scholarships to Pawling High School Students, and to oversee the operation of the Akin Free Library.