Bethel Burial Ground

Coordinates: 39°56′16″N 75°9′3″W / 39.93778°N 75.15083°W / 39.93778; -75.15083
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Bethel Burial Ground
Southwest corner of Weccacoe Playground, which covers the burial ground
Bethel Burial Ground is located in Philadelphia
Bethel Burial Ground
Bethel Burial Ground is located in Pennsylvania
Bethel Burial Ground
Bethel Burial Ground is located in the United States
Bethel Burial Ground
Location415 Queen St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Coordinates39°56′16″N 75°9′3″W / 39.93778°N 75.15083°W / 39.93778; -75.15083
Area0.28 acres (0.11 ha)
NRHP reference No.15000734
Added to NRHPJanuary 6, 2016

Bethel Burial Ground is a historic African American cemetery located in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, beneath part of the surface of Weccacoe Playground, which is bounded by Queen, S. Lawrence, Catherine, and S. Liethgow Streets. The burial ground was about 100 feet square and is located below the southwest corner of the current playground.


Burials began in 1810 after the land was bought by the Rev. Richard Allen for Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, located about half a mile north, to be a resting place for African Americans. Bills of mortality and death certificates document 1,716 burials on the 0.28 acres (0.11 ha) site before 1830.[1]

Large amounts of fill were used on the site to accommodate burials after 1842, in effect stacking graves on top of earlier graves. Estimates of the total burials range from 3,000 - 5,000. Burials ended in 1864 and the site was neglected. From 1869-1873 the lot was used for storage of wagons and other equipment by a sugar refiner and was further degraded. Bethel Church sold the property in 1889. By 1900 it had been transformed into a park, then known a Weccacoe Square.[1]

A preliminary excavation has firmly established the extent of the cemetery, found evidence of many grave shafts, and of layers of fill, and one gravestone reading "Amelia Brown, 1819, Aged 26 years - Whosoever live and believeth in me, though we [sic] be dead, yet shall we [sic] live."[1][2]

Weccacoe Playground[edit]

Weccacoe Playground, located on the 400 block of Catharine Street, features a playground that dates back to 1910.[3] Part of the park was built over the Bethel Burial Ground. The park includes a recreation center, a tennis court, a playground and water play area.[4]


  1. ^ a b c Wunsch, Aaron (15 July 2015). "Bethel Burial Ground" (PDF). PHMC. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  2. ^ Crimmins, Peter (26 July 2013). "Reviving the memory of thousands forgotten in burial ground beneath Philly playground". Archived from the original on 21 December 2016. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  3. ^ "Future Of Queen Village Playground Includes Look At Buried Black History". CBS Philly. July 18, 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  4. ^ "Sensitivity and the search for common ground at Weccacoe Playground / Bethel Burying Ground". Plan Philly. May 6, 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2016.

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