History

Cranaleith Spiritual Center is situated on ten acres in the Somerton section of Northeast Philadelphia near the interface between Philadelphia and Bucks Counties.

Earliest recorded history reveals that the Native American tribes of Essepanike, Swanpees, Okettarico, Wessapoet and Lenape lived on the land until 1683, when they ceded it to William Penn.

In 1891, Rachel Foster Avery, corresponding secretary of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association, purchased the property and commissioned Minerva Parker Nichols, one of America’s first female architects to build a house.

Besides being a home for the Avery family, the house, which still stands, was designed to serve as a gathering and planning place for suffragettes, including Avery’s close friend Susan B. Anthony who was a frequent guest.

Joseph C. and Wilhelminia Trainer bought the property in 1906. Reminded of the towns in Ireland from which his grandparents came, Joseph named it Cranaleith, which means “Sanctuary of Trees.”

Throughout the 20th century, Cranaleith was affectionately known as a place of welcome.

The home was passed to Mary and Frank Trainer, son of Joseph and Wilhelmina, who raised their four children there, including Mary, Cranaleith’s founding director.

In 1996 the Trainers created Cranaleith Spiritual Center as a not-for-profit foundation to sponsor the ministry in partnership with the Sisters of Mercy. Frank bequeathed the property to Cranaleith Spiritual Center in his will.  Cranaleith began operations in 1998 and received formal approval as a public charity in November 2009.

The home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017.


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