Frankford (Preparative) Friends Meeting House, Corner of Unity & Waln Streets, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA
Significance: The original portion of the Frankford Preparative Friends Meeting House was erected in 1775-76, making it the oldest Friends meeting house in Philadelphia. Although the construction of meeting houses within the city dates back to its founding in 1680s, most were replaced by the nineteenth century and some more than once. Frankford Meeting House was erected as a single-cell, three-bay-by-two-bay structure, to which a smaller two-bay-wide section was added to better accommodate the growing meeting. The addition also enabled the structure to adapt to a programmatic change that occurred during the late eighteenth century. Evidence indicates that a partition located to the east of the central doorway once divided the 1775-76 structure into two apartments. The smaller size of the eastern (women's) apartment reflected the English program whereby Friends met in a single room for worship, and then in separate apartments for gender-specific business meetings. By the late eighteenth century, American Friends began meeting on separate sides of a partition for worship and business, lowering the partition for the latter meetings. The new arrangement required two equally sized apartments, and led to the development of the two-cell, doubled structure that became a standard for Friends meeting house design for nearly a century. Frankford's 1811-12 addition made the meeting house conform to the newer program by creating same-sized rooms. Thus, Frankford reflects a critical point in the evolution of meeting house design. It is one of the few surviving examples of an one-cell form altered to better accommodate separate space for women's meetings. Frankford Meeting House is also of interest for its unusual mix of building materials. A refined treatment of Flemish-bond brick with glazed headers was used in constructing the facades facing the street. The use of locally quarried rubble stone gives a more vernacular appearance to the two remaining facades, including the south front. The utilization of both brick and stone was probably a function of economy. The materials from the previous meeting house were reused, thus minimizing the need for additional (more costly) brick. Such building practices were indicative of Quaker thrift. Salvaged materials often found new life in another structure or where otherwise put to use.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N824
Survey number: HABS PA-6652
Building/structure dates: 1775- 1776 Initial Construction
Building/structure dates: 1811- 1812 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1947 Subsequent Work
Building/structure dates: 1962 Subsequent Work