Friends Neighborhood Guild

Friends Neighborhood Guild building, 151 Fairmount Ave.. Image provided by Historical Society of Pennsylvania

701 North 8th Street

Friends Neighborhood Guild was established in 1879 as Friends Mission #1 by the Hicksite Friends, a group of Quakers who split from the American Friends in the Great Schism of 1827-1828. In its first building at Beach Street and Fairmount Avenue, the Friends Mission sought to provide religious and moral uplift to the poor European immigrants flooding into the waterfront neighborhoods of Northern Liberties, offering worship services and youth and temperance meetings. In 1898, the Friends Mission changed its name to the Friends Neighborhood Guild, acknowledging its transformation to a proper settlement house. Since 1950, the Friends Neighborhood Guild has worked extensively to improve housing in the East Poplar neighborhood. Other services offered include youth counseling, workforce development, senior housing, and emergency energy-assistance programs. After occupying several locations in the neighborhood, the Guild moved to its current location in 1956.

Traditional Quakers believed in continuing revelation through a more personal relationship with the "Inward Light of Christ." But the Hicksites—named for Long Island minister Elias Hicks—deemphasized the divinity of Christ and the authority of scripture and ministers. Hicks, a staunch abolitionist, was critical of the powerful Philadelphia Quaker elite for both their tolerance of slavery, and for their wealth that was often the product of slave labor. The Orthodox and Hicksite Quakers slowly reconciled and reunified in 1955.

The Guild has adapted its programs and services to meet the needs of its changing community, serving a range of populations over the last century. In the early 20th century, the Guild served mostly Central and Eastern Europeans immigrants and their children, organizing vocational training and English classes to help them adjust. By the 1920s, the Guild's service area was primarily African American.

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