Free Quaker Meeting House

Free Quaker Meeting House

A group of Quakers felt that the cause of the Revolution was too great to ignore. They were "read out of meeting."

Quakers are pacifists. However, during the Revolution, several state militias sent out a call for help. Various Quakers were inspired to assist in the conflict, even though they knew they would be "read out of meeting," or expelled from the main community of Quakers. The group of approximately 200 called themselves Free Quakers and founded a meeting house of their own in 1783.

Thirty to fifty Quakers regularly attended the meetings. Over the next several years, participation waned. Finally, in 1834, only two members regularly attended meetings — Betsy Ross and John Price Wetherill. They decided the time had come to close the doors of their beloved meeting house permanently.

After its life as a meeting house, the building was successively a school, an apprentice library, a plumbing warehouse, and headquarters for the Junior League of Philadelphia. Today it is open to the public.

Inside, are two original benches and an original window exists nearly intact. The balcony which looks as if it belonged to the original structure, was actually constructed when the meeting house was restored in the 1960s.

Among the exhibits is the 5-pointed star tissue pattern that Betsy Ross used in making the first American flag. A guide will demonstrate how to cut a 5-pointed star in a single snip. Visit Betsy Ross and the American Flag for lots more about this.

As you're leaving, take a look at the granite tablet in the north gable. It says, "...of the Empire 8," the earliest known indication that the country's future was unclear — would it be an empire and not a republic?

  • Betsy Ross was one of the two last congregants here. She and John Price Wetherill locked its doors in 1834.

  • Location: Southwest corner of Arch and 5th (Map)
  • Built: 1783
  • Architect: Samuel Wetherill
  • Style: Georgian Brick Mansion
  • Commissioned by: Free Quakers
  • Tourism information: See NPS Site  
  • Facilities: Benches, book store, bathrooms, phones


Copyright © 1999- by the Independence Hall Association, a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1942. Publishing electronically as On the Internet since July 4, 1995.