Most people know Philadelphia as the birth place of liberty — the place where concepts like freedom of speech and Democracy were perfected. But Jay Worrall of Arch Street Friends Meeting House in Old City, points out that Philadelphia is also the birth place of Religious Freedom.
“William Penn and the Quakers of Pennsylvania were the only colony where multiple religions were tolerated, where it was an official act of law that anyone could come and establish any church of any kind in Philadelphia. And that was not true in any other colony or, for that matter, in any other country in the world. And so, the whole notion of religious freedom and separation of church and state began in Philadelphia from its very founding.”
Visitors to the Meeting House at Fourth and Arch streets will walk through historic halls and even sit on some, well, historic seats.
“Some of these benches are almost three hundred years old and the cushions have the original stuffing. They were all done in 1811, and the stuffing is horse hair. And so, we have new covers put on them, but we still have the same horse hair cushions.”
Besides some more-or-less ancient seat cushions, those taking a tour of the Meeting House will learn about William Penn, Quakerism and the how the Meeting House, which is made of mostly salvaged materials, embodies Quaker beliefs.
Just a short walk from Arch Street Friends is Christ Church, where many of the founding fathers worshipped — including George Washington.
Christ Church historian Neil Ronk says, the building transports visitors back to colonial times.
“You don’t have to hit people over the head with, “This is the colonial era.” The building was built in that era. Its main features architecturally are from this era. And in a sense just walking through the building gives you that aesthetic sense.”
Ronk says sites like Christ Church are living institutions. They provide a unique look into the past, present and future of the Founding Fathers’ vision.
“The visitors want to be reassured in the essential decency of the history and of the nation that was founded. And that, I think, is the greatest: the proof positive of both the founding of the nation and our essential decency.”
Other historic sacred places in Philadelphia include:
The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. The mother church of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the cathedral features many works of art and impressive architecture. Benjamin Franklin Parkway & 18th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Mother Bethel AME Church. Founded in 1794, it is the first black denomination of the Methodist Church in the United States. The church, located just south of Washington Square, is on the oldest piece of land continuously owned by African-Americans. 419 S 6th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
Laurel Hill Cemetery. One of only a handful of cemeteries to be designated a National Historic Landmark, Laurel Hill Cemetery’s elegant crypts and sculptures have earned it the nickname, “Philadelphia’s Underground Museum.” Located just off of Kelly Drive in Fairmount Park, the cemetery is open to walkers, joggers and cyclists. 3822 Ridge Avenue – Philadelphia, PA 19132
Reported By Timothy McLaughlin, KYW Newsradio