Old Philadelphia Congregations
Old Pine Street (side 1)
This congregation was organized as the Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia in 1768. The original building, completed that same year, was a simple Georgian structure of red brick, designed by Robert Smith, the foremost carpenter-architect of the colonial period.
One of its early pastors, George Duffield, served as chaplain to the Continental Congress in 1774 and at Valley Forge in 1777-78 when the British occupied the city and Old Pine Street Church. Using the church, first as a hospital and later as a stable, the British stripped and burned the contents (including the pews) leaving only the bare walls and 100 Hessian mercenaries buried in the churchyard.
In the 1800s, the building underwent two major remodeling projects in 1837 and 1857; it was rebuilt in the then popular Greek Revival style and the brick exterior was covered with stucco. Membership grew, and by the time of its centennial in 1868, the congregation was one of the largest Presbyterian churches in the city.
By 1900, Old Pine and the neighborhood had begun to decline; by mid-century both church and churchyard stood in melancholy disrepair. In the 1950s, the newly formed Friends of Old Pine helped make the repairs needed for Old Pine to become a functioning church again. In the ensuing
years, the church played a vital role in Society Hill's renaissance.
The 1970s and 1980s saw further rebuilding and restoration: the Old Pine Community Center was built; the church became fully accessible and the sanctuary was restored using the stenciling techniques of 1886. Like the church itself, the painted symbols represent a journey of faith from the past to the present, and on into the future.
Many who played significant roles in our nation's history lie in Old Pine's churchyard, including Jared Ingersoll, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a signer of the Constitution, and Attorney General of Pennsylvania. The Memorial Garden, built in the 1980s, holds the remains of more recent members and friends of the congregation.
(side 1 photo captions
· George Duffield (Presbyterian Historical Society
· Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church logo
· "Old Pine" before 1847 showing the original Georgian architecture (anonymous woodcut
· Interior of church looking toward chancel (photo Peter Zirnis
Old Philadelphia Congregations (side 2)
It was in Philadelphia, alone of America's colonial cities, that Quakers, Jews, Catholics and Protestants "experienced the difficulties and discovered the possibilities of fruitful coexistence that American
democracy was to offer."
Philadelphia is a city that not only tolerated but welcomed diverse modes of religious practice from its beginning.
That diversity is still evident today in the Old Philadelphia Congregations, a consortium of historic churches and synagogues of different denominations working together to broaden interfaith understanding and celebrate Philadelphia's unique contribution to religious freedom in America.
The freedom of worship mandated in William Penh's 1701 Charter of privileges ensured that Philadelphia made significant contributions to American religious history: Philadelphia is the birthplace of the Methodist, German Reformed, Episcopal and African Methodist Episcopal churches in America. It is here that the first African-American bishop was named, the Hebrew Bible was first translated into English, and the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America was held. And in the 1730s, Philadelphia was the only place in the British Empire where a public Catholic mass could be celebrated.
In other words, Philadelphia's religious history is the nation's own.
"Because noe people can be truly happy though under the Greatest Enjoyments of Civil Liberties if Abridged of the Freedom of theire Consciences as to theire Religious Profession and Worship"from William Penn's Charter of Privileges for Pennsylvanians
(side 2 photo captions
· Location of the Old Philadelphia Congregations
· East Prospect of Philadelphia by Scull and Heap (copper engraving, 1756)