Friends Center and Friends Select School partner to renovate historic building

1520 Race Street building as it stands today. Photo by Chris Mohr/Friends Center.

In February, Friends Center and Friends Select School, both located in Center City Philadelphia, Pa., entered into an agreement to renovate 1520 Race Street, a historic building on the west side of Friends Center’s courtyard.

Friends Select will buy the building, renovate it at their cost, and use the space for upper school classrooms and administrative offices. Friends Center has contacted the remaining tenants, offering to relocate them elsewhere on site.

Friends Select intends to start construction this summer in order to complete the project in time for the 2022-2023 academic year.

The agreement returns 1520 Race Street to an earlier use. Friends’ Central School occupied the building before moving to its present location in Wynnewood, Pa., just outside Philadelphia, in 1924.

Undated historic photo of Friends’ Central students in the courtyard outside the Race Street building (from The History of Green Street Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia by R. Bruce Jones, 1988).

Friends Select is under the care of Central Philadelphia Meeting at Friends Center (as well as Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia, known as Arch Street Meeting, a few blocks away). The school already has its meetings for worship and graduations in the Race Street Meetinghouse at Friends Center.

In an announcement posted online, Chris Mohr, executive director of Friends Center, expressed excitement about the opportunities the new joint agreement brings: “Not only will this approach accomplish our goals for the building, it will also deepen the relationship between Friends Select and the organizations here at Friends Center.”

Friends Center had long been planning to renovate the 1520 Race Street building. A master plan was done in 1999, and an updated feasibility study was done in 2017. Friends Center’s goals are to make the building fully handicapped-accessible, update its life safety systems, and modernize the facilities.

FJ News Editors

Erik Hanson and Windy Cooler are the news editors for Friends Journal. They contributed to the reporting of this story. Do you know about any Quaker news stories we should be covering? Send us tips at

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