Reeves said men have been standing outside the construction site of the planned $3.5 million Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting House, one of whom identified himself as a member of a steel union and asked the site superintendent if he would like to hire steelworkers. When the superintendent declined, the man said that "he's got to do what he's got to do," according to Reeves.
Ed Sweeney, business manager for the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, the union for private-sector steelworkers in Philadelphia, said he had not heard about the suspected arson but knows the site.
"I was up there last week and said hello to the guy and asked if he wanted to hire any ironworkers, and he didn't even talk to me," Sweeney said.
Police said a full report was not available Friday night, but a preliminary police report said a crane had been set on fire and that the damage was roughly $500,000. Police searched the site for explosive devices but found none.
Reeves said that whoever committed the alleged vandalism broke into the fenced-off site, brought an acetylene torch and "knew what they were doing."
The Quakers believe that insurance will cover the cost of the damage and that the repairs can be completed in a few days, said Storm Evans, a member of the meetinghouse's Client Committee.
She has "a sense of sadness about this, and we hope that whoever did it is OK. There's some anger about that," she said. "I am sad that these people are that angry."
The planned building, which would be the first new Quaker meetinghouse in southeastern Pennsylvania in a century, is to feature a "skyspace" designed by renowned artist James Turrell, in which the roof "retracts and people sit and look into that hole at dawn or at dusk and get a sense of light changing," Evans said.