A Quaker Community in Costa Rica

Monteverde is a small, rural community located in the mountains of Costa Rica. It was founded by a handful of Quaker families from Alabama in 1950. Since the early days, the Quaker meeting house has been at the heart of the community. People gather there to worship every Sunday, and throughout the week it serves as a place to host community events of all kinds. As the years passed, and Monteverde continued to grow, it became clear that the community needed a larger space. Many people put energy into the vision for a new meeting house, but until 2012 there was no consensus on what the new building should look like. Credit for map of Costa Rica below to Free World Maps.

David Heads South

In 2012, David moved with his wife and son to Monteverde. His wife had a year-long sabbatical position at Monteverde Friends School, and David might have been free to live a tropical life as a man of leisure but his passion for community build projects got the best of him. He was quickly embroiled in the planning of the new meeting house. Using his experience in consensus-based decision-making, and with the help of 3D modeling software, David was able to help breathe new life into the project. After a decade of deliberation, the meeting reached consensus. They decided that the new meeting house should be a timber frame building, designed by TimberHomes and built by volunteers from the community.

How it all came together

The wood for the frame was donated from a stand of Mexican cipress, an exotic wood planted many years ago by one of the founding members of the Monteverde community. Local sawyers cut and milled the cipress with a portable bandsaw mill that they planted in the middle of the stand. Once milled, the timbers had to be transported to the basketball court of the Monteverde Friends School, adjacent to the site of the new meeting house, where joinery would be cut in a temporary shop space. Moving the rough-sawn timbers was no easy feat, because the cipress stand was separated from the school by about a quarter mile of uneven mountain road. David used the resources available, coordinating a box truck, a small pickup, and a motley crew of timber-bearers to transport all of the timber to the shop space. With a small tool kit shipped in from Vermont, it took two months for volunteers to cut all 1,200 joints in the frame.

The foundation for the new meeting house was built by an incredible team of Costa Rican builders. They built a maze of concrete stem walls and earthquake-ready piers bucket-brigade-style, using wheelbarrows and level six gymnastics.

Trust in Community Builds a Meetinghouse of Note

The coordinated efforts of this community showed great heart and trust. The countless acts of volunteerism large and small needed to get the building done foreshadowed a building that will be used and loved for a long time to come.

The timber frame itself is an interesting structure. Four mortise-and-tenon trusses allow for a 31-foot clear span in the width of the building. The king posts in the trusses are each a brilliant red, made of local tropical timber species (cedro, cucaracha and something beginning with s’ that we can’t remember) all found as blowdowns on a nearby farm. Mid-air assembly during the hand raising required level seven gymnastics, and Josh’s (link) expert supervision.