In June 1912 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stopped at the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia on a special trip from New York City. He was exhausted by speaking engagements and recent travel but met with the Bahá’ís and others at the hotel. Suddenly He spoke to Mary J. Revell and said “I am coming to visit your home tomorrow.” And so on a hot Monday morning He arrived at her small row house in North Philadelphia. The Revell home was the center of activities in the bustling community that had just been re-galvanized by the visits of Isabella D. Brittingham. Mary and her daughters had scrubbed the house in preparation for this surprise visit, and now some fifty visitors crowded in around the Master when He entered the small home. As He came through the foyer, Jessie Revell tells us, He said, “This is the Bahá’í Home.”
The visitors sat on the living room floor, in the hallway, and on the steps, to hear as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke blessed words, many of which were recorded by Edna McKinney and can be found in Star of the West, volume V, No. 6, at page 90.
This small brick row house had a number of owners over the years and despite decades of efforts by the Philadelphia Assembly to work with its last owner it gradually fell into disrepair and then was finally abandoned. In a state that threatened being raised by the City it was sold in 2003 at Sheriff’s Sale and the local Assembly was graciously enabled to purchase it. Steps to secure the site and rescue its architectural features followed immediately.
We are now informed that this property is believed to be one of only a handful of such private homes visited by the Master that are currently owned by Bahá’ís. Even more concerning is that some of these properties have been destroyed over the years and will never be able to be restored.
After some years of research and consultation with historic specialists and architects, the Assembly has created a plan to restore the Revell House to as close as possible its appearance in 1912. When completed the building will serve as a place of spiritual focus and as a center for community activities. The Universal House of Justice wrote, “It is hoped that this building may again serve as a source of unity and spiritual upliftment for the community around it.”
image: the chair ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sat in in the living room of the Revell House
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