Living Like The 1800s: Arch Street Meeting House

 

Photo: Hidden City Daily

Friends from around the region attending their yearly meeting later this month will walk over never varnished, native yellow pine floors laid in the early 1800s to take a seat on benches with horse hair filled cushions from the 1740s. They will discuss issues facing their faith and worship in the west meeting room of the Arch Street Meeting House just as their Philadelphia founding predecessors. The room exists with the same purpose and in much the same state as when completed in 1811.

William Penn gave the land at Arch Street between 3rd and 4th to the Quakers in the 1690s. The Friends used it as a burial ground until the congregation’s women pushed for additional meeting space. An east meeting room connected by a center pavilion to a west meeting room shortly covered the site’s 10,000 graves to serve as the home of Philadelphia’s Quakers.

The two left-most center windowpanes show the characteristic curvature of mouth-blown, crown glass. | Photo: Hidden City Daily

The Arch Street Meeting House’s historic treasures extend beyond the bench cushions, flooring, and unmarked graves to the wavy glass in its windowpanes, made by skilled craftsman using a mouth blown process. Glass makers opened a molten glass ball on the end of a blowpipe into a crown like shape, transferred it to a rod, flattened and reheated the crown to create a disc shape, and then thinned the disc by spinning the rod to increase the glass disc to a diameter of five or six feet. They then cut the glass to the appropriate windowpane size. Crown glass was one of the most common forms of window glass until the Industrial Revolution. Today its production process is practically a lost art; the replaced panes in the Arch Street Meeting House are easily identified by their lack of curvature.

Photo: Gayle Christiansen

Close inspection of the second floor benches, originally reserved for boys, revels another Arch Street Meeting House find. Intricately lettered initials in a cursive font appear carved into the wood. It seems the desire to quietly pass time by leaving one’s mark was as strong in the past as today.


View Larger Map

Gayle Christiansen began exploring the ins and outs of Camden as a middle school science teacher in the City. She has since written a chapter about Camden’s vibrant, essential and overlooked small businesses in Transforming Minds and Cities: Economy, Equity, and Environment, a forthcoming edited volume by Vanderbilt University Press. Gayle earned a bachelor’s degree from Kenyon College and Master of City Planning degree from MIT. She is a sometimes blogger with MIT’s CoLab Radio and part of the Project H.O.M.E. community in North Central Philadelphia.



Comments are closed.

Recent Posts
A Look Inside Gilded Age Parkside

A Look Inside Gilded Age Parkside

April 18, 2014  |  Morning Blend

A tour of a nearly intact Victorian mansion in West Philly, two civics explore the possibility of creating improvement districts, Stotesbury Gateway to be remade, and cleaning up Clark Park > more

Widdy Dialect: The

Widdy Dialect: The “Hoagie” Of Darts

April 17, 2014  |  Makin' It

Under the rumbling El and amidst the hustle and bustle at Kensington and Somerset, a distinctly Philadelphian brand of darts is made the same way it has been for over 100 years—by hand. Brad Maule throws a round with Widdy Darts > more

New PWD Project To Teach Children Ecology & Technology

New PWD Project To Teach Children Ecology & Technology

April 17, 2014  |  Morning Blend

GreenSTEM systems to be installed in four schools, the inequality of urban pollution, jazz month in Philly, parklets being installed in West Philly, and terrible timing in closing Kensington store > more

A Last Look at Second Baptist Church

A Last Look at Second Baptist Church

April 16, 2014  |  Last Light

The demolition of a former house of worship in Northern Liberties has provided a glimpse into the building's history > more

PATCO Announces $7.5 System Upgrade

PATCO Announces $7.5 System Upgrade

April 16, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Clearer information and working escalators for PATCO, delays in UC student housing development, the William Penn Foundation’s new approach to safe watershed awareness, and what the Lower Northwest invented for the world > more

A Golden Glow For <em>The Inquirer's</em> Saffron

A Golden Glow For The Inquirer’s Saffron

April 15, 2014  |  News

Yesterday, the Pulitzer Prize board announced its 2014 winners. After 15 years with a watchful eye on Philadelphia's built environment, the Inquirer's Inga Saffron won journalism's highest award for criticism > more