Headed for the Hall of Fame

— North­east Phil­adelphia is rich in his­tory and nowhere is that more evid­ent than in the old houses of wor­ship that are loc­ated there.


On Oct. 21, sev­en North­east Phil­adelphia churches and meet­ing houses that are at least 200 years old will be in­duc­ted in­to the North­east Phil­adelphia Hall of Fame. Many of these re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions date to the earli­est days of Pennsylvania’s his­tory; all but one pred­ate the Amer­ic­an Re­volu­tion.

Each year, the Hall of Fame hon­ors in­sti­tu­tions that have made an im­pact in the North­east as well as in­di­vidu­als who have made a dif­fer­ence. This year, the Rev. Le­on Sul­li­van; sol­ar power pi­on­eer Frank Shuman; com­munity lead­er Ed Kelly and as­tro­naut Chris Fer­guson also will be honored.

Fol­low­ing are brief pro­files of the houses of wor­ship, each of which stands today as an oas­is of his­tory in an oth­er­wise bust­ling, mod­ern North­east Phil­adelphia. Next week, the North­east Times will pro­file the people who will be in­duc­ted in­to this year’s North­east Phil­adlephia Hall of Fame.

Unity Monthly Meet­ing Frank­ford (Quaker), 1682

Unity Monthly Meet­ing at Waln and Unity Streets in Frank­ford is one of the old­est wor­ship sites in Phil­adelphia. Its meet­ing house, built in 1775, is the old­est sur­viv­ing Quaker meet­ing house in the city. Known for many years as Ox­ford Monthly Meet­ing and later as Frank­ford Monthly Meet­ing, its founders were among the “First Pur­chasers” of land from Wil­li­am Penn, who came to Phil­adelphia be­gin­ning in 1682. These early Quaker set­tlers began gath­er­ing for wor­ship in mem­bers’ homes un­til Thomas Fair­man, a prom­in­ent loc­al Quaker and one of Penn’s land sur­vey­ors, donated land for a meet­ing house in 1683. The first meet­ing house, a log struc­ture, was built on the site in 1684; the cur­rent 1775 brick and stone build­ing is still used for wor­ship as well as for a com­munity cen­ter. In re­cent years, the con­greg­a­tion took the name Unity Monthly Meet­ing to dis­tin­guish it from Frank­ford Friends Meet­ing on Or­tho­dox Street, a sep­ar­ate Quaker con­greg­a­tion that was es­tab­lished in 1833.

By­berry Monthly Meet­ing of Friends (Quaker), 1683

The earli­est Quaker meet­ings in By­berry began about 1683 in the homes of loc­al res­id­ents. In 1694, Henry Eng­lish donated an acre of land along what is now By­berry Road for use as a grave­yard for loc­al Quakers. A log meet­ing house was built on this site and By­berry Meet­ing was of­fi­cially es­tab­lished soon after. The log struc­ture was re­placed by a stone meet­ing house in 1714, which, in turn, was re­placed by the present meet­ing house in 1808. By the 1820s, By­berry Meet­ing had some 500 mem­bers and had de­veloped in­to a cen­ter of learn­ing and cul­ture. With the es­tab­lish­ment of the By­berry Friends School in about 1720, fol­lowed by the es­tab­lish­ment of By­berry Lib­rary Com­pany in 1794 and By­berry Philo­soph­ic­al So­ci­ety in 1829, meet­ing mem­bers were en­gaged in edu­ca­tion and so­cial is­sues as well as the study of lit­er­at­ure and nat­ur­al his­tory. Many also were act­ively en­gaged in the anti-slavery move­ment, hold­ing ab­ol­i­tion­ist meet­ings in ad­ja­cent By­berry Hall.

Pen­nepack Baptist Church, 1688

Pen­nepack Baptist Church in Bustleton is the old­est Baptist church in Pennsylvania and sev­enth old­est in the United States. It was foun­ded in 1688 by a group of Welsh Baptists who settled in the area. They used nearby Pennypack Creek for their bap­tis­mal ser­vices. They met in mem­bers’ homes un­til they built their first church build­ing in 1707 on what is now Krewstown Road. This build­ing was en­larged in 1774 and then re­placed by the present build­ing in 1805. Among the not­able pas­tors at Pen­nepack Baptist was its first preach­er in 1688-1689, Eli­as Keach, son of a fam­ous Eng­lish Baptist min­is­ter, and Samuel Jones, an early gradu­ate of the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania who was pas­tor from 1762 to 1814. The Rev. Jones foun­ded an academy in his home near the church and was in­stru­ment­al in found­ing what is now Brown Uni­versity in Rhode Is­land. In 1886, the church built and oc­cu­pied a build­ing about a mile away, but in 2006 it sold this build­ing to an­oth­er con­greg­a­tion and moved back to its ori­gin­al 1805 build­ing, where it re­mains today.

Trin­ity Church Ox­ford (Epis­copal), 1698

Trin­ity Church Ox­ford, in Lawndale, is one of the old­est Epis­copal churches in Amer­ica. A marble stone in the wall of the church states that Church of Eng­land ser­vices were first held on the site in 1698 in a log meet­ing house ori­gin­ally used by area Quakers. A new brick build­ing was built in 1711, and this struc­ture forms the west­ern end of the cur­rent church build­ing. In 1713, Queen Anne of Eng­land presen­ted the church with a sil­ver com­mu­nion chalice, which is still a prize pos­ses­sion of the con­greg­a­tion. In the late 19th cen­tury, noted ar­chi­tect Frank Fur­ness de­signed ad­di­tions to the church. Trin­ity Ox­ford has had a num­ber of dis­tin­guished rect­ors over the years, in­clud­ing Aneas Ross, fath­er-in-law of Betsy Ross; Wil­li­am Smith, first prov­ost of the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania; and Ed­ward Buchanan, broth­er of Pres­id­ent James Buchanan. After Amer­ica’s in­de­pend­ence, Trin­ity Ox­ford played a role in the new Prot­est­ant Epis­copal Church in Amer­ica and in es­tab­lish­ing the Epis­copal Dio­cese of Pennsylvania in 1784.

Pres­by­teri­an Church of Frank­ford, 1770

Pres­by­teri­an Church of Frank­ford, loc­ated at Frank­ford Av­en­ue and Church Street, was es­tab­lished as a Ger­man Re­formed Church. A group of Ger­man-speak­ing Prot­est­ants, mostly from Switzer­land, foun­ded the church. The first church build­ing was com­pleted in 1770 and served as a tem­por­ary pris­on for Hes­si­an sol­diers cap­tured in the Battle of Trenton dur­ing the Re­volu­tion­ary War. In the early 1800s, there was a rift in the church over lan­guage, with some mem­bers want­ing the ser­vices to con­tin­ue in Ger­man and oth­ers want­ing to switch to Eng­lish. The former group left to es­tab­lish a new con­greg­a­tion, and in 1808 the church of­fi­cially be­came a Pres­by­teri­an con­greg­a­tion. The 1770 build­ing was re­built in 1844 and then again in 1859. The lat­ter, the dis­tinct­ive “pink church,” is the cur­rent build­ing. Mem­bers of Pres­by­teri­an Church of Frank­ford have played an im­port­ant role in Frank­ford over the years, from man­aging the Frank­ford Academy in the early 1800s to help­ing found Frank­ford Hos­pit­al in the early 1900s.

All Saints Epis­copal Church, 1772

All Saints Epis­copal Church on Frank­ford Av­en­ue in Tor­res­dale was es­tab­lished in 1772 as a mis­sion of the area’s first Epis­copal Church, Trin­ity Ox­ford in Lawndale. Chris­ti­an Min­nick donated the land with the stip­u­la­tion that the new church would not sep­ar­ate from Trin­ity Ox­ford and that Swedish min­is­ters would be al­lowed to preach there to the area’s Swedish res­id­ents. The first All Saints rect­or in 1772 was the noted Wil­li­am Smith, who was also rect­or at Trin­ity Ox­ford. All Saints closed briefly dur­ing the Brit­ish oc­cu­pa­tion of Phil­adelphia in 1777-1778, but re­opened soon af­ter­ward and has re­mained act­ive ever since. By 1835, it had grown large enough to be­come in­de­pend­ent of Trin­ity Ox­ford. The ori­gin­al 1772 build­ing was en­larged in 1812 and then re­placed by the cur­rent build­ing in 1855.

Camp­bell Afric­an Meth­od­ist Epis­copal Church, 1807

Ac­cord­ing to church tra­di­tion, a pray­er group of some 28 mem­bers of Frank­ford’s Afric­an-Amer­ic­an com­munity began meet­ing in 1807 in the home of Sarah Congo, loc­ated on what is now Plum Street in the heart of Frank­ford’s black com­munity. This group would form the nuc­le­us of what would be­come Camp­bell AME Church. Later, the group ac­quired a build­ing a few blocks away on what is now Kin­sey Street and began hold­ing ser­vices there. The cur­rent build­ing con­tains corner­stones not­ing that it was re­built in 1818 and 1870. The 1870 build­ing is still in use and has an in­scrip­tion that refers to the church as “2nd AME,” in­dic­at­ing that it was the second Afric­an Meth­od­ist Epis­copal church es­tab­lished after “Moth­er Beth­el,” the na­tion’s first AME Church, which was foun­ded by Richard Al­len in the late 1700s. In the 1860s Second Beth­el was re­named “Camp­bell” in hon­or of Jabez Pitt Camp­bell, a mid-19th cen­tury AME bish­op. As the first, and for many years only, in­sti­tu­tion in Frank­ford that was run and sup­por­ted en­tirely by Afric­an Amer­ic­ans, Camp­bell AME has played an im­port­ant role in the re­li­gious, so­cial, and civic life of the area’s black com­munity for over two cen­tur­ies.

If you go…

The North­east Phil­adelphia 2012 Hall of Fame in­duc­tion ce­re­mony will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, at Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity, North­east Phil­adelphia cam­pus.

For tick­ets and more in­form­a­tion, con­tact Jack Mc­Carthy at 215 824-1636 or jack­notes88@ve­r­i­zon.net.

Tick­ets cost $25.

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