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at 4th and Arch
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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.
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.
Monthly Meeting of Friends
4th & Arch Streets