Christ Church Philadelphia
The church was founded in 1695, 14 years after King Charles II granted William Penn a charter for land in Pennsylvania. Known as “The Nation’s Church,” Christ Church hosted members of the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War and welcomed presidents George Washington and John Adams. Early church members included Betsy Ross and Benjamin and Deborah Franklin. The current Georgian-style church was constructed in 1744 with the wooden spire erected a decade later. Early American architect Robert Smith designed the 198-foot spire, which made Christ Church the tallest structure in North America for 56 years. Christ Church is also significant in the history of enslavement and abolition. Absalom Jones grew up enslaved to a Christ Church vestryman before freeing himself and becoming the first African American Episcopal priest.
Members of Christ Church identify as stewards of “such an important cultural, architectural, and historic landmark.” The church campus, which includes the Neighborhood House and Christ Church Burial Ground, is part of Independence National Historical Park. Over 250,000 people visit the church each year, often paying respects to Benjamin Franklin and other prominent historical figures buried on the property. Christ Church also supports the local community through Neighborhood House, an arts and cultural center built by the congregation in 1915 as a support hub for the surrounding immigrant population. Neighborhood House lends space to community groups, offers events in its theater, and operates a weekly outdoor famers market.
A $250,000 National Fund grant with over $500,000 in matching funds raised by the congregation and the Christ Church Preservation Trust contributed to the stabilization and restoration of the steeple. The National Fund project scope focused on the interior tower restoration, which notably restored the masonry wall that originally separated the tower from the sanctuary. The project has increased the fundraising capacity of the congregation and its commitment to the building, realizing “how fragile the steeple and tower are and how the long-term stewardship…requires the building of endowments and reserve funds.”
Christ Church Philadelphia by Samuel Markey
New Heights: Restoring Philadelphia’s Historic Christ Church
Christ Church Philadelphia courtesy Christ Church Philadelphia
Stories and Media Coverage
Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.
Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez