Friends Heritage at 4th & Arch

The Friends Meeting at 4th and Arch

The Arch Street Meeting House stands as an enduring symbol of the people who created Pennsylvania as a "Holy Experiment." It was built to house the men's and women's Yearly Meetings, which were the business sessions of the Religious Society of Friends for Philadelphia and Environs, and remains as one of the oldest active houses of worship in the City.

After meeting.The Friends did not follow the classical revival style then in vogue. Master carpenter Owen Biddle built the Arch Street Meeting House according to the Quaker principles of plainness and simplicity. Begun in 1803, the new building was financed by the sale of the Greater Meeting House which stood at Second and High (now Market) Streets, the site of Quakers' Meetings since 1696.

The first Quaker settlers met in private homes until they build a modest wooden Meeting House, on Front Street near Walnut Street in 1684. A century later, there were five Meeting Houses in the City, including the Free Quaker Meeting House which still stands at Fifth and Arch Streets. The Free Quakers, sometimes called the Fighting Quakers, split from the pacifist main body to support the American Revolution. They worshipped separately for only a few years.

The Society of Friends, called Quakers by their critics, grew out of the teachings of George Fox in England, in the seventeenth century. William Penn, a disciple of Fox, founded Philadelphia as a haven for his persecuted co-religionists. His "Holy Experiment" was to build a society according to Quaker ideals: the absolute right of conscience, the equality of man, and nonviolence.

Quakers and Slavery — a History Tour of Old City Philadelphia

The Religious Society of Friends is well known for its members’ work in the 19th century abolitionist movement. The complex history of Friends and slavery is not as well known. This information and a self-guided tour of Center City Philadelphia, compiled by a member of our meeting, may provide a glimpse into that history. The tour starts and ends at the Arch Street Meetinghouse at 320 Arch Street in Old City and is approximately one hour or a 14 block walk.

Other sites

 Arch Street Meeting House
Website for meetinghouse itself, with information about the building's history, interpretive tours available during the week, and use of the building by other community and nonprofit organizations.

 Arch Street Friends Meeting House
One stop on the Independence Hall Association's virtual history tour of historic Philadelphia.

 Free Quaker Meeting House
Another stop on the virtual tour.

 Quakers and the Political Process
An exhibit on display at the Arch Street Meetinghouse, recently developed by a working group of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

 Old Philadelphia Congregations
Celebrating the diverse modes of religion practiced in Philadelphia from its beginning.
 Map of Historic Philadelphia
Simple map (and quick to load).

 Chapters of Pennsylvania History:

 Biography of William Penn
 History of the Delaware Tribe
They called themselves the Lenape. This account begins with many names of groups and locations (some names still in use in the Philadelphia area) and continues with a detailed history of the people who lived in the area before and during European settlement, whose descendants now live mostly in Oklahoma.

Resources for further research

Online catalog for the library system of Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore Colleges. These college libraries have become repositories for many books and records collected by Friends in the region.
    See also:
 The Quaker Corner
Resources for Quaker genealogical research.

 Cyndi's List of Quaker Genealogy Sites on the Internet.
A fairly comprehensive list of links, with pointers on using some of them.

Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia
320 Arch Street (corner of 4th & Arch)
Philadelphia, Pa. 19106