Located on 6th Street between Pine and Lombard, in Society Hill, Mother Bethel and the African Methodist Episcopal Church holds history dating back to the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. This church was originally built on land first purchased in 1791 by freed slave Richard Allen with the support of several founding fathers.
The church once owned a cemetery that is now the site of Weccacoe Playground in Queen Village. The cemetery land was in active use from about 1810 until about 1868. Initially purchased by Richard Allen, it was eventually acquired by the city and has served largely as a playground for more than a century. Recently, there have been proposed plans to update and renovate the park, making necessary changes for the community’s safety. In order for renovations to take place, an underground examination must be completed. Reports estimate that the shared land holds more than 2,000 burial sites a mere 2 1/2 feet below the playground surface.
This all came to light last month when the headstone of Amelia Brown was found among top soil while conducting the land dig. For more than a century and today, families enjoy all the playground has to offer including full sized tennis courts, community activities and a full playground. This issue has become a fine line of preserving history while making necessary renovations to the playground.
After finding the tombstone, it was displayed for church members to see at worship. Mostly, they appreciated learning about the church and burial ground history. The Church is actively working several of the groups involved in the excavation and research to ensure this important part of the its and the City’s history is preserved for future generations.
- A matter of grave concern in Queen Village (philly.com)
- There Are Thousands of People Buried Below a Playground in South Philadelphia (complex.com)
- Old Mother Bethel grave site could hold thousands (philly.com)