Free Quaker Meetinghouse
As the colonies were recruiting men to serve in the Revolutionary War, some Pennsylvanians were not willing to take up arms. Many in the prevalent Quaker society did not believe in the lawfulness of war. A group of Quaker men turned out in defense of their country and in defiance of their traditional pacifism. Knowing that they would be disowned in their former congregation, these over 200 men and women founded and built the Free (or “Fighting”) Quaker Meetinghouse. <
The Free Quaker Meetinghouse was built in 1783, with the second floor added in 1788. Services were held here with usually 20-30 in attendance until 1834. At this time, there were only two members who regularly attended: Betsy Ross and John Price Wetherill, so they agreed to close down the meetinghouse.
The building as in turn acted as a school, an apprentice library, a plumbing warehouse, and headquarters for the Junior League of Philadelphia. Today it is open to the public.
Inside you will find two of the original benches from the meetinghouse. There is also an exhibit on Betsy Ross’ design for the stars on the American flag.
If you can find the dedication stone on the pediment, you’ll see it says “By General Subscription for the FREE QUAKERS
Erected in the YEAR of OUR LORD 1783 of the EMPIRE 8.” – one of the earliest references that this new country might one day be an empire!
Though most of the building is original, or at least original looking, this is not it’s first location! The entire structure was moved North and West to accommodate the widening of the street in front in 1961. The balcony inside however was added and was not part of the meetinghouse, that is the only 19th/20th c. addition that remains.
The building is free, if it’s open and the hours vary. If you pass by and notice that it is open, it only takes a few quick minutes to pop in and it is well worth the visit.