Anglicans planted the flag in Penn’s Quaker colony with this Georgian tour-de-force. The tallest steeple in the colonies was an added exclamation point. Christ Church is a National Historic Landmark.
The Church of England lost no time in establishing itself in the middle of William Penn’s Holy Experiment, a scant 13 years after Philadelphia’s founding. The current building, (which replaced an earlier small wood structure) is a spectacular Georgian design whose steeple, at 60 meters, was the tallest in North America at the time.
It was no doubt not lost on the church fathers that the Society of Friends didn’t use steeples on their meetinghouses, and many other denominations followed their lead. Christ Church became the most clearly visible house of worship along the Philadelphia waterfront.
Similar in feel and elegance of detailing to Wren’s London churches, Christ Church, along with Independence Hall and Carpenters Hall represent the high water mark of Georgian Architecture in the Delaware Valley.
Its front façade facing east toward 2nd Street features an enormous Palladian window. This window, along with the row of arched windows at the ground and second floor levels, fills the interior with light on even the most overcast winter day. The interior, with its white walls and fluted columns, is the very embodiment of the age of enlightenment where religion was a rationalist undertaking to be carried out in the clear white light of day.