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.

Send a message!



Comments are closed.

Recent Posts
Illegally Built Apartments Point To Another Failure From L&I

Illegally Built Apartments Point To Another Failure From L&I

April 24, 2015  |  Morning Blend

Off-campus Temple apartments raise yet more questions as to the purview of L&I, highlights from the Indego launch, derelict East Falls home being demolished, Japanese culture on display on the Hill, and Postgreen to celebrate at open house for new South Kensington project > more

Photography Exhibition Captures The Spirit Of Kensington's Sacred Places

Photography Exhibition Captures The Spirit Of Kensington’s Sacred Places

April 23, 2015  |  Buzz

Nineteenth century neighborhood churches share the spotlight this Friday in Joseph B. Elliott's photography exhibition, "Preserving the Story: An Event to Celebrate Kensington’s Sacred Places" > more

Toward An Inclusive Revival Of Mayfair’s Frankford Ave

Toward An Inclusive Revival Of Mayfair’s Frankford Ave

April 23, 2015  |  Morning Blend

A bottom-top approach toward a BID, developers to explain their Spruce Hill mixed-use to residents, PHL expansion deal reached with neighbors, and life on Elfreth’s Alley > more

With Council Introducing Gallery Redevelopment Bills, We Examine PREIT's Plan

With Council Introducing Gallery Redevelopment Bills, We Examine PREIT’s Plan

April 23, 2015  |  News

What's the economics behind the outlet mall concept? Will the Gallery remain a public place? Is PREIT offering transformative architecture? Nathaniel Popkin examines the project and files this report > more

Philadelphia’s Blooming Roofs Are Booming

Philadelphia’s Blooming Roofs Are Booming

April 22, 2015  |  Morning Blend

The advantages of green roofing, 52nd Street reaches back to its former vitality, a high-tech bench for Independence Mall, and a look inside Indego’s HQ > more

Getting Wise To Watershed Waste With <em>One Man's Trash</em>

Getting Wise To Watershed Waste With One Man’s Trash

April 22, 2015  |  Vantage

Today is Earth Day and Bradley Maule has a bone to pick with Philadelphia. He just spent 52 weeks picking up our litter in the Wissahickon Valley and his collection isn't pretty. His evocative environmental art installation, One Man's Trash, opens today, April 22nd, at the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center. HC co-editors Michael Bixler and Maule caught up to get into some trash talk. > more