Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church
Active parish rich with the history of early Philadelphia life
St. Peter’s is an elegant reminder of 18th-century Anglican church life and is now an active 21st-century Episcopal parish in Society Hill. With the rare church design — having the altar at the one end, and the elevated wine-glass pulpit at the other — there is no front or back to the church.
The boxed pews, which until 1966 were rented by parishioners, have seats that face both ways. Art and architectural details include the 1842 tower and spire designed by William Strickland and two wooden angels by sculptor William Rush, which flank the organ case on the east wall over the chancel.
St. Peter’s was built between 1758 and 1761 to accommodate the overcrowded Anglican parish of Christ Church and serve members who had settled in Society Hill. William White, who served as rector of both churches until 1836, became the first bishop of the Episcopal Church, formed in 1784 after independence was won. Worshippers included Absalom Jones, who founded St. Thomas Church, the first African American Episcopal Church, in 1792.
Guides are on duty Saturday 11-3 and Sunday 1-3.
Among those buried in the churchyard are the chiefs of eight Indian tribes who died from smallpox while in town to meet with President Washington in 1793.
Pew 41, rented by Philadelphia Mayor Samuel Powel, was where George Washington sat when he worshiped here.
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