The center of Quaker life in Philadelphia is now a national historic landmark. The Arch Street Friends Meeting House, the largest Quaker meeting house in the world, was designed by celebrated architect and author Owen Biddle.
“We are frequently visited by people who are not so much interested in the Society of Friends as they are Owen Biddle’s architecture,” says tour guide George Garrettson of the building at Arch and Fourth streets.
The community decided to try for landmark status almost 10 years ago. But it was just last summer that members of the meeting house submitted an application to the National Park System Advisory Board. They successfully made their case in Washington, D.C., over the fall and winter, Garrettson said.
Recognized as playing an “integral role” in America’s development, according to the National Park Service, the Friends’ meeting house has been in continuous use since it was built in 1805.
It currently holds two worship services a week, on Sunday and Wednesday, as well as a yearly gathering of Friends from the Philadelphia area, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.