Free Quaker Meeting House
500 Arch St., 215/965-2305
HOURS: Wed.–Sun. 1–5 p.m.
The Revolutionary War raised a major dilemma for many Quakers—whether to uphold their religious values or fight those darn Brits. Since one of the most important tenets of the religion is pacifism, those who decided to join the fight for independence were excommunicated and unwelcome at their meeting houses. So in 1783, they founded one of their own.
The simple brick Georgian meeting house was designed by Samuel Wetherill, and its 200-plus members, who included Betsy Ross and Constitution-signer Thomas Mifflin, became known as the “fighting Quakers.” After the war, most returned to their former meeting houses and by 1834, services were no longer held here.
It has since been a school, an apprentice library, a plumbing warehouse, and headquarters for the Junior League of Philadelphia. There isn’t much to see inside today, but take a quick peek at the two original benches and original window, and the five-pointed-star tissue pattern that Betsy Ross is thought to have used to make the first American flag.
Descendants of the original group still hold annual meetings here, and it is now home to the offices of Once Upon a Nation, a nonprofit organization that operates many programs in historic Philadelphia.
© Karrie Gavin from Moon Philadelphia, 1st Edition