Christ Church was built in the 1700s and served as the place of worship for numerous American revolutionaries. It’s still a functioning church today.
A couple of office workers were eating lunch on an old bench. A faint breeze contended with the humidity. In the distance there was the beep of a truck backing up.
But otherwise, there was nothing happening outside Christ Church when I walked by on a recent afternoon. No crowds. No tours buses. No people really at all except a few Philadelphians walking slowly through the crushing heat. I nearly missed it.
When I did step inside, a helpful worker pointed out George Washington’s bench. It’s a couple of rows back, on the left, and marked by a gold plaque.
Christ Church was founded in 1695 as a parish in the Church of England. The current building was finished 1744. It later became “the birthplace of the American Episcopal Church” and was the place of worship for numerous key figures in the American Revolution. In addition to Washington, who attended services there while he was president, Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, John Adams, and numerous other people who signed the Declaration of Independence worshipped at Christ Church.
The building itself is simple by today’s standards, although at one time must have seemed quite remarkable. A brick rectangle with clear glass (stained glass was added in the 1800s then later removed), the steeple — completed in 1754 — was the tallest structure in the US until 1810. The interior is bathed in light and white paint.
History notwithstanding, Christ Church is still a functioning house of worship and one of the people working there during my visit told me it hasn’t missed a service in over 300 years. During my visit, the organ was missing and a worker told me it was being replaced with something that would service the church better — a testament to the fact that the church would still need a functional organ and is not stuck in the proverbial amber of history.
If you go: Christ Church is free and open Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 1 pm to 5 pm. It’s address on Google Maps is 20 N American St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
— Jim Dalrymple II