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Sacred Sites of Center City


William Penn described the founding of the colony of Pennsylvania in 1682 as a “holy experiment.” Central to that experiment was freedom of worship for all religions, something unavailable in any other part of the British Empire at that time. Penn hoped that tolerance or religious differences would lead to a society in which individuals of all backgrounds—including the Native American population—would be able to live in peace and harmony.


The opportunity for freedom of worship encouraged people of many different faiths to come to Philadelphia and construct places of worship. While many early settlers were, like Penn, members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Anglican, Catholic and various Protestant churches and Jewish synagogues quickly joined the Quaker meetinghouses. As the growth of the city moved south and then west, religious congregations followed, erecting larger and more  sumptuous structures. As a result, Center City Philadelphia contains a concentration and diversity of religious places unmatched by any area of similar size in the United States. These buildings now stand as landmarks in every section of Center City as a reminder of Penn’s vision.


Sacred Sites of Center City offers five walking tours of the neighborhood environments in which these distinctive structures are located. Each building is illustrated with a color photograph by noted photographer Tom Crane and described in terms of its history and its architectural features. Times of services when the building is open are provided.


Sacred Sites of Center City is a project of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. Profits form the book support the work of the Preservation Alliance.


Available from

Paul Dry Books - $7.95

Two Sacred Sites walking tours downloadable to your smart phone are available free from the Preservation Alliance: Rittenhouse Square and Society Hill.


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