14. Bishop Richard Allen's Home
Richard Allen’s home on this block (which is not marked) was not his first home in Philadelphia. He lived at 59 Dock Street near where South and 2nd street are today from 1788 to 1791. His first home was not in a very desirable location. Not so with this second location. Grocers, sailors, a shoemaker and other middle class residents – both white and black – lived here. His friend Absalom lived just a few blocks away as well.
What is perhaps most striking about this location is that we are standing almost precisely halfway between Independence Hall and Mother Bethel AME. It is a good place to pause and think about Richard Allen’s influence. It is important to stress that Allen shaped the early American republic politically as well as religiously. His most recent biographer, Richard Newman, suggests this in the very title of his book – Freedom’s Prophet.
But Allen was more than just a public and religious leader in Philadelphia – and he did not do his work alone. He was also a husband and father who shared meals and played with his six children in his Spruce Street home. Shortly before moving here he married Flora, an ex-slave like Richard, and also a devout Methodist who attended class meetings and shared Richard’s vision of establishing a black church. They married in October of 1790 and began raising their family. They were known to entertain the friendless as well as the powerful in their home; an official emissary from the President of Haiti came here. 56 Flora worked alongside her husband in their common ministry. In March of 1801, however, Flora died after a long illness. Richard soon married Sarah who had attended St. George’s with Richard and was a founding member of Mother Bethel Church. She worked hard in caring for the sick during the yellow fever epidemic too. This impressed Richard. He even wrote a pamphlet about her entitled simply “Sarah Bass.” When they married, Sarah – like Flora –partnered with Richard in their common ministry at Bethel Church and in the city at large. She once organized an “all-night sewing brigade” when she and Richard realized how poorly-dressed many of the AME preachers were who came to meet with Bishop Allen. Sarah was also a friend and great encouragement to Jarena Lee, the first AME female preacher. Sarah Allen and Jarena Lee died the same year, in 1849.