Arch Street Friends Meeting House
The Arch Street Meeting House is a National Historic Landmark and still in use. Photo by Beyond My Ken on Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The historic West Room which is still furnished as it was in 1811. Photo by Smallbones on Wikimedia Commons (public domain).
Backstory and Context
This Flemish bond brick building dates to the early nineteenth century. William Penn had donated the land for a Friends burial ground in the 1600s; worship services took place in private homes until the construction of this building between 1803 and 1805, with an addition completed in 1811. The architect was most likely Owen Biddle.
Visitors can feel how the structure of the building has changed little as they walk through the simple and efficient meeting house. The walls, ceiling, floors, and most of the windows are original to the building. The meeting house contains what is possibly the largest collection of crown glass windowpanes of any building in Philadelphia. In 1854, two cupolas were added to the structure for ventilation.
Visitors can also view dioramas and exhibits of Quaker history. Attentive tourists will notice how the building is symmetrically balanced, a three-part structure with a center pavilion containing the lobby flanked on each side by large meeting rooms. The east wing is home to the men’s meeting room and the west wing contains the women’s meeting room.
The meeting house is on the National Register of Historic Places, recognized in 1971, and is also a National Historic Landmark. It is still used as a location for worship services and is the site of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.
Pennsylvania Register of Historic Sites and Landmarks. Arch Street Friends Meeting House, National Register of Historic Places Inventory -- Nomination Form, National Archives. January 11, 1971. Accessed March 18th 2021. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/71997016.