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Neighbors concerned: Demolition slated for Furness-designed church at 47th and Kingsessing

Posted on 10 June 2014

Church nave

The interior of the Furness-designed church at 47th and Kingsessing, which is scheduled for demolition (Photo by Brendan Skwire.)

 

The 114-year-old church at 47th and Kingsessing is set for demolition, perhaps the last chapter in a long story of decay at the Frank Furness-designed building.

A note from nearby neighbors. (Click to enlarge.)

A note from nearby neighbors. (Click to enlarge.)

The city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) recently ordered the building’s demolition. A fence was recently placed around it and, according to a sign nailed to one of the boarded-up doors, L&I has “cleaned and sealed” the building, which since 1979 has been St. Peter’s Church of Christ. The small congregation no longer meets in the church’s main building, which was constructed in 1900 and has fallen into a state of disrepair over the past several years. Famed architect Frank Furness’ firm Furness, Evans and Company designed the building (and a bunch of other cool buildings in the city).

The City Paper‘s Ryan Briggs reported late last week that L&I officials said demolition would begin Monday. So far, it’s still standing. Neighbors, some of whom live within a few feet of the building, are concerned about the demolition, especially with recent botched demolitions of Elena’s Soul in late 2012, last week’s Hoops deli demolition and the tragedy at 22nd and Market last year. They have posted signs near site asking people to keep an eye on the demolition as they pass by the building.

The church was built in 1900 for the Church of the Atonement congregation, which formed in 1847.

The church was built in 1900 for the Church of the Atonement congregation, which formed in 1847.

Hidden City reported last year that the church was served with a “30-day repair or demolish order” by L&I and has code violations dating from at least six years ago.

A few rumors are floating around that a buyer may come in to save the building, though the St. Peter’s congregation, which meets next door at the even older parish house, is reluctant to open up the building to a Calvary Center style arrangement to save it.

A few years ago the congregation agreed to allow Sprint to place cell antennas on top of the building to earn a little money. Those were removed late last week, according to City Paper.

It appears that this time demolition is imminent. We’ll keep you posted. Please drop us a line if you see the demolition starting.

Mike Lyons

church wide

The exterior of the church. Here are some more pictures of the interior from Hidden City.

 

9 Comments For This Post

  1. Melody Says:

    Will they not even send in an architectural salvage crew first? All those pews and windows and other details going to waste.

  2. steve steve Says:

    I understand what Melody is saying, but losing the whole building is really what the waste is. As the above article mentions this is not a situation that has developed over night, but I’d like to know if any of our neighborhood groups has been doing anything. Has University City Historic Society expressed any interest in saving this; what about UCD and all their programs; Cedar Park Neighbors; Spruce Hill? Or are they all looking forward to seeing a row of stucco covered crap houses with off street parking instead of front yards.
    I don’t know any thing that might have been attempted to save this church, but my guess is little if anything, and that pisses me off. I wish I knew what to have done, but more then anything its wrong that the City is going to spend money tearing this place down where a few years ago they should have spent half as much putting a roof on it so the building could have been saved.

  3. Adam Rice Says:

    This is so sad. That’s my favorite church building in all of West Philly.

  4. Mike Lyons Says:

    @steve steve – Several local community groups met with the pastor of the church and other affiliated congregations in the region. To see if there was anything that could be done. That’s where the Calvary Center scenario was posed. The meeting didn’t seem to be fruitful.

  5. El Chapo Says:

    Yes, so, so sad. If I had unlimited funds I would try to save it, but alas. . .

  6. Don Says:

    Why doesn’t the city’s Historic Preservation dept. step in and landmark it?

  7. Rob Says:

    The Historical Commission could care less about saving any historical building in the city. They’re a rubber stamp for L&I and developers.

  8. hello neighbor Says:

    Notably, UCD’s “Project Rehab” worked tirelessly, for over a year, to help the owner save the building. Several offers/options were brought to the table and the owner’s response was “I’ll let the City pay for the demolition and then sell it”.

    SMH.

    The poor fool doesn’t seem to want to hear that the cost of the demo
    (estimated at upwards $100,000) will become a lien against future sale of the parcel, so he’ll have to pay for it anyway. After the lien is satisfied, he’ll be lucky if he recoups even a portion of the reported $80,000 he initially paid for it.

  9. Thomas Says:

    The “Preservation Alliance” is a travesty. They are basically only concerned with Rittenhouse Square and Society Hill. I’m sure if they read this they will retort with a list of projects outside of those areas that they have facilitated but the TRUTH is that they only assist preservation in areas that are high profile not in the outlying areas that are really having the worst problems. Would this happen to a church in rittenhouse? NO.

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