Biographical / Historical
Friends Neighborhood Guild was organized in 1879 as Friends Mission #1 under the supervision of Philadelphia First Day School Union, an organization of Hicksite Friends. Its first mission building opened in 1880 at the corner of Beach Street and Fairmount Avenues in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia. Its initial aims were to provide religious and moral uplift, “a refining influence” for poor European immigrants living along the North Philadelphia waterfront. Early activities included worship services, youth meetings, a sewing school, and temperance meetings.
In 1898 it came under the care of the Philanthropic Committee of Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting (Hicksite). The following year, it moved to a new location at 151 Fairmont Avenue and was renamed Friends Neighborhood Guild. Its programs were aimed at families, especially children, and were expanded to include recreation, woodworking, a savings fund, a flower and fruit mission, assistance in obtaining fuel, and a probation officer. The work was carried out by volunteers until 1903, when Emily Wilbur, the first full-time staff member, was hired as General Superintendent.
In 1913 Friends Neighborhood Guild expanded with the purchase of Green Street Meeting House at Fourth and Green Streets. This important Hicksite meeting house was built in 1814, but by 1913 attendance had declined so dramatically that the Meeting decided to sell the building. Early in the twentieth century, under the influence of the social work philosophy, Friends Neighborhood Guild gradually changed from a mission to a settlement house. The ethnic mix of community residents gradually changed in the 1920s from mostly Central and Eastern Europeans (Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholic) to largely black. In 1921 Friends Neighborhood Guild was one of the founders of the Welfare Federation of Philadelphia, and it is currently a United Way agency. Since 1950, with the formation of Friends' Self Help Cooperative, the Guild has been involved in efforts to improve housing in the East Poplar section of Philadelphia. In 1954 Friends Neighborhood Guild became incorporated, managed by a Board of Directors. In 1956 the Guild moved to its present location at 703 North Eighth Street.
While having no official connection to Friends Neighborhood Guild, Spring Street Settlement, located at 1223-1225 Spring Street, was established in 1906 to help improve economic and social conditions in a black neighborhood east of Broad Street in Philadelphia, close to the area served by Friends Neighborhood Guild. Its programs included recreation, instruction in shoemaking and sewing and other “useful arts,” material assistance, a probation officer, and a visiting nurse. It was particularly concerned with the housing conditions in the area and became inactive after 1925.
The collection also contains a small amount of material (1905) relating to the Friendly Settlement Association, another Quaker society involved in settlement work in Philadelphia.