Arch Street Friends Meeting House
320 Arch St., 215/627-2667
HOURS: Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., with meetings for worship
Wed. 7 p.m. and Sun. 10:30 a.m.
COST: $2 donation suggested
Arch Street Friends Meeting House, the oldest and largest Quaker meeting house in the world, fittingly occupies a piece of land donated by Quaker founder William Penn. In 1793, Penn donated the site to the Religious Society of Friends to be used as a Quaker burial ground. The large wall surrounding it was installed to keep cats and dogs out of the graves.
The building was constructed in 1804 by architect Owen Biddle at a slight elevation above the ground level to accommodate layers of graves beneath. The modest, symmetrical brick structure reflects the early Quaker values of simplicity.
There are three distinct sections inside. The East Wing is probably the most interesting to visitors, with its dioramas depicting the major events in the life of William Penn, and the “Drinker Dollhouse,” a reproduction of the 18th-century home of a Philadelphia Quaker, Elizabeth Drinker.
The West Wing was used for women-only meetings, some of which were attended by famous abolitionist Lucretia Mott. Today, men and women attend worship together in the Center section.
Meetings are open to the public and last 45 minutes to an hour. Don’t expect a sermon; meetings are not led by anyone and they are generally silent, unless the spirit moves someone to speak.
© Karrie Gavin from Moon Philadelphia, 1st Edition