Owner of church takes demolition appeal to Common Pleas Court

    • The next battle over the preservation of the Church of the Assumption will take place in Philadelphia courts.
      The next battle over the preservation of the Church of the Assumption will take place in Philadelphia courts.

Siloam, the social service agency that owns the Church of the Assumption and adjacent buildings, has filed an appeal in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to allow it to demolish the church building.

The appeal seeks to reverse the May 18 vote of the Board of License and Inspection Review that overturned the Philadelphia Historical Commission’s decision to allow the owner to raze the historic church.

Kevin R. Boyle, the attorney representing Siloam, said the owner will argue that the Historical Commission had made the correct the decision and nothing has happened that would affect that decision. “This was a strong hardship application,” Boyle said.

A consultant hired by Siloam estimated that restoring the church could cost as much as $6 million, and just stabilizing the building and its spires would cost $1.5 million. The agency, which provides services for people living with HIV/AIDS and their families, has said it does not have the funds to make the repairs and has been unable to find a buyer for the property.

The Callowhill Neighborhood Association, which has been fighting to preserve the church, has had discussions with representatives of the Clay Studio, the ceramic arts organization that is looking to expand from its current headquarters on 2nd Street in Old City, about purchasing the church building at 1123-33 Spring Garden St.

But Boyle said the Clay Studio has not made any offer for the property.

C. Anne Anderson, a CNA board member, has said the civic group will continue to fight in the courts for the preservation of what neighbors say is an important community landmark.

The Church of the Assumption was designed and built in 1848-49 by Patrick Charles Keely, the most prolific ecclesiastical architect in North America in the 19th century. The church is the oldest surviving structure built by Keely. John Neuman helped consecrate the church, and Katharine Drexel was baptized there. Both became Catholic saints.

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About the author

Alan Jaffe, Contributor

Alan Jaffe has been a contributing writer for PlanPhilly since 2008, focusing on overlooked buidlings and historic preservation issues. He was a writer and editor in the newspaper industry for nearly 30 years, including eight at the Philadelphia Inquirer and nine at the South Jersey Courier-Post. He is currently the director of communications for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. He is also an antiques writer and collector and the author of “J. Chein & Co.: A Collector’s Guide to an American Toymaker.”

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