A history of the second-oldest Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, published in honor of its 250th anniversary


St. Peter's Church

Faith in Action for 250 Years

Cordelia Frances Biddle, Elizabeth S. Browne, Alan J. Heavens and Charles P. Peitz

cloth EAN: 978-1-43990-795-5 (ISBN: 1-43990-795-1)
$40.50, Oct 11, Available
Electronic Book EAN: 978-1-43990-797-9 (ISBN: 1-43990-797-8)
272 pp 8x10 125 color illustrations

Laurence D. Fish Award for Outstanding Parish History from the National Episcopal Historians and Archivists, 2014

"This is the most beautifully presented church history I have ever seen. The author team skillfully weaves together many strands of a venerable Philadelphia church: the architectural history of St. Peter's; the troubled times that divided the church during the American Revolution and Civil War; the outreach mission efforts, mostly by female parishioners, when the church was surrounded by the struggling poor of the late nineteenth century; and the stirring rebirth of the church in recent decades after it almost closed its doors. Utterly frank in discussing the church's low points as well as high points, it is a fascinating exploration of one of Philadelphia's treasures."
Gary B. Nash, Professor of History Emeritus and Director, National Center for History in the Schools, UCLA

For 250 years, St. Peter's Episcopal Church has witnessed a rich mixture of people and events that reflect America's history. Nestled in Society Hill, one of Philadelphia's oldest neighborhoods, its congregants span the centuries. George Washington worshipped here as did many other national figures. Patriots and Tories, Abolitionists and slaveholders, Whigs, Democrats, and Republicans all occupied its pews. And over the years St. Peter's was an important point of first contact for countless immigrants as the church provided basic services to help them acculturate to life in Philadelphia.

Opening a window onto Philadelphia’s—and the nation's—history, St. Peter's Church is a glorious testament to this National Historic Landmark. In addition to the stories and a hundred plus black-and-white and color photographs, this handsome volume provides a history of the grounds, the churchyard, and the church itself—a classic example of eighteenth-century Philadelphia design that later incorporated the work of renowned architects William Strickland, Thomas U. Walter, and Frank Furness.


"This is a charming and informative book, complete with great shots of Society Hill in its less tony days."
The Philadelphia Inquirer

"[W]ritten by knowledgeable people who did their research and are a part of this church...it includes many beautiful photos and design elements."
Episcopal Journal


Foreword, by the Reverend Ledlie I. Laughlin, Twentieth Rector, St. Peter’s Church

1. Let the Building Speak • Elizabeth S. Browne
Martin Jugiez • Kenneth Finkel
2. The Sacred Cause of Liberty • Elizabeth S. Browne
A St. Peter’s Continuum • Elizabeth S. Browne

3. The Churches Disunited • Alan J. Heavens and Elizabeth S. Browne
4. The Building Evolves • Elizabeth S. Browne
5. The Industrial City: 1836-1845 • Cordelia Frances Biddle
6. St. Peter's and the Oxford Movement • Alan J. Heavens
7. Civil War Divides the City • Cordelia Frances Biddle

8. St. Peter's Reaches Out • Alan J. Heavens and Cordelia Frances Biddle
Outreach of an Earlier Age • Alan J. Heavens
9. From a Side Pew: Meditiations on the "Saints" • George E. Thomas
10. The Jewish Mission: The Reverend Andrew Weinstein • Alan J. Heavens

11."No Longer a Wealthy Parish" • Alan J. Heavens
12. The Choir School: The Gilbert Years • David Richards
The Choir Post-Gilbert • Elizabeth S. Browne
13. 1950-1962: Transition and Renewal • Marcia Rogers
14. The ’70s and Beyond: “Behold, I Make All Things New” • Alan J. Heavens
Sally Buell • Cordelia Frances Biddle
Celebrating the 250th • Elizabeth S. Browne

The People of St. Peter's
15. The Churchyard • David Stevens
High Up, the Man in Black • Alan J. Heavens
16. The Rectors of St. Peter's Church • Alan J. Heavens
17. Members of the Congregation • Alan J. Heavens
18. "A House of Prayer for All People" • Alan J. Heavens



About the Author(s)

Cordelia Frances Biddle is the author of the historical novels: The Conjurer, Deception’s Daughter, Without Fear, and Beneath the Wind. She is a direct descendant of Nicholas Biddle.

Elizabeth S. Browne, a tour guide, tour writer and designer and guide trainer, is a long-time member of St. Peter's Church.

Alan J. Heavens is a veteran newspaper columnist and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer. He is the author of What No One Ever Tells You About Renovating Your Home and Remodeling on the Money.

Charles P. Peitz is a freelance editor formerly with The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Wall Street Journal.

Subject Categories

Philadelphia Region


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