You are here

Free Quaker Meetinghouse

-A A +A
1783, Timothy Matlack and Samuel Wetherill, builders. N. 5th and Arch sts.

The only pre-1800 meetinghouse to survive in Philadelphia is the Free Quaker Meetinghouse whose existence marks the split between those who fought in the Revolution and those who adhered to the traditional Quaker pacifism. Unlike the utter plainness of the Arch Street Meetinghouse (PH6), this is a comparatively ornamented building with pilasters at the corners, a heavy cornice, bull'seye windows in the pediments, a polychromed version of the decorative pattern of Flemish bond brickwork, and, most remarkably, a plaque that proclaimed their purpose: “For General Subscription For the Free Quakers, erected in the year of our Lord, 1783, of the Empire 8” (referring to the eighth year since the beginning of the American Revolution in 1775). The members re-merged with the traditional meeting in 1836 after which time the building served a variety of uses, including as an Apprentice's Library (founded 1821) “to improve the scientific skill of our mechanics and manufacturers.” As a part of the planning of Independence Mall (PH12.1), it was moved slightly back from its original site to provide space for the widening of 5th Street.

The consequence of William Penn's principle of religious freedom is most apparent at N. 4th and Vine streets where English Methodist, Irish Catholic, and German Reformed congregations are located in close proximity, while William Strickland's building for Mikveh Israel stood around the corner at N. 4th and Cherry streets.

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas


What's Nearby


George E. Thomas, "Free Quaker Meetinghouse", [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 2

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, George E. Thomas, with Patricia Likos Ricci, Richard J. Webster, Lawrence M. Newman, Robert Janosov, and Bruce Thomas. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 53-54.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.

, ,