In 1719, Christ Church purchased two acres of land on the outskirts of town at the corner of 5th and Arch Streets. The burial ground became the final resting place for over 4000 members of Christ Church including five signers of the Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Hewes, Francis Hopkinson, George Ross, and Dr. Benjamin Rush. Also buried on these historic and sacred grounds are many of our nations early founders and leaders, prominent lawyers, medical pioneers, military heroes, victims of the Yellow Fever epidemic, and members of the Church from the colonial era up into the last decade.
When Benjamin Franklin died in 1790, he was buried in his family plot in the north west corner of the burial ground along with his wife Deborah and their two children Francis and Sarah. In 1858, Franklin's descendants requested that an opening be placed in the brick wall so the public could see Franklin's grave day or night, and a metal fence was installed. After the opening in the wall it was much easier for Franklin's many fans to show their respect and remembrance of him by tossing a penny onto his grave. "A penny saved is a penny earned."
In 1864, the warden of Christ Church, Edward Lyon Clark compiled a book of all the inscriptions that were still visible on the fading soft marble markers. Today only 1,300 markers remain and plaques have been placed in front of some of the gravestones that contain the words that once appeared on the now blank headstones.
The brick wall surrounding the burial ground was first built in 1772, and later re-built in 1927 with much of the original masonry and capstone
In the early 1800s, twenty family vaults were built in the middle of the burial ground along a path from the 5th street gate. These family vaults were built to extend down 36 feet and contain up to 20 family members in each. Many of Philadelphia's prominent families used these vaults up into the 20th century.
In 2003, the burial ground was re-opened to the public with over 160 of the markers rebuilt. The burial ground is now open every day (except in January,February and December) Monday through Saturday 10-4, Sunday 12-4 (weather permitting) Admission price is: Adults-$2, Students-$1, Groups up to 25 people-$15. Our guided tour "Revolutionary Americans" is available for an additional fee of $3 for adults and $1 for students.Guided tours are presented from 11 AM-3:30 PM.
In December 2005, to honor Franklin's 300th birthday a new brick path was added around the Franklin family grave site. In the construction of the new path a preserved gravestone for the Usher family was discovered beneath in the pathway. A plaque containing the inscription for Robert Usher and family was placed next to the new path. A marble surround was also added around the Franklin family grave site, containing the original inscriptions for John Read (Franklin's father in-law), Francis Franklin, and Emma Mary Bache.
We continue to preserve our historic burial ground with repairs of three vaults in our vault row section of the burial ground and the preservation and repair of the Arch Street gates.
We have maps of the burial ground for sale, which highlight many of the notable people buried in our grounds. Tour guides are always on hand to share the stories of our past and to help guide you around our sacred and historic burial ground. All proceeds from sales, admissions, and guided tour fees are used to help preserve this historic burial ground.