Fair Hill Burial Ground is a 300-year old Quaker burial ground, a site on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a beautiful, fenced, and well maintained 4.5-acres at 2900 Germantown Ave. in North Philadelphia between Lehigh & Allegheny.
The land on which the burial ground is situated was willed by George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, in 1691, to American Quakers, for use as ‘a stable, a Meetinghouse and burying place’. At that time, the area consisted of farmland and wooded area outside of the Philadelphia city limits. Its location along Germantown Pike, now Germantown Avenue, placed it on a major thoroughfare between Philadelphia and the outlying rural areas during the 18th century.
The original Meetinghouse, built in 1703, was one of the first brick buildings in the Philadelphia area. The original burial ground was 40 x 50 feet to the east of the Meetinghouse, now Cambria Street. There are few accounts of interments there. It is likely that burials stopped around 1795, when the property was leased to tenant farmers.
Judge Isaac Norris, one time mayor of Philadelphia, bought the land adjacent to the original Meetinghouse in 1713 and built an elegant mansion and estate there. He and his family were regular attenders at the original Fair Hill Quaker Meeting. The early residents of the neighborhood tended to be wealthy landowners.
The area saw its share of skirmishes during the Revolutionary War, and the Meetinghouse was occupied by the British in the winter of 1777 after the Battle of Germantown.
The property came under the care of Green Street Monthly Meeting (Quakers) in 1817. There are no records of what happened for the next twenty years. In 1842, the current property bounded by Germantown Avenue, Cambria Street, Indiana Avenue and 9th Street, was fenced in for use as the purpose of using it for a burial ground. The old burial ground was destroyed in the process of squaring off the property for the new one.
John Hare, 19 years old, was the first person to be interred in 1843. Eight others were interred that year. The rules of the burial ground included guidelines for ‘simple’ funerals and specifications for the size of headstones — no more than 18 inches wide, 9 inches deep and 10 inches out of the ground. This practice was in keeping with the Quaker tradition of simplicity.
During the mid to late 19th century era, industries multiplied in Fair Hill to include lumber yards, coal yards, lime yards, iron foundries, textile factories, a woolen mill, a coffin factory and a soap factory.