As demolition nears, St. Laurentius supporters seek sanctuary through historic designation

St. Laurentius Church in Fishtown is inching closer toward demolition, though the final showdown is slated for this summer.

Two developments spell bad news for supporters of the 133-year-old Polish building in Philadelphia: Church officials have applied to the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections for a demolition permit. And the Vatican has denied an appeal from church advocates to spare the building from the wrecking ball.

Those two setbacks are according to Ken Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. 

The city confirmed that the demolition application has been submitted by contractor Geppert Bros.

"A, the building is in sad shape, and the independent reports are saying that. B, the parish doesn't have the necessary funds to fix the building where it's going to be stable and stable for a long time. So, C, the decision made at the parish level was to move toward demolition," Gavin said.

Meanwhile, church supporters are directing their attention to the city's Historical Commission, which could be their last hope.

Erin Cote with Philadelphia's Historical Commission confirmed that she received an application to extend a special historic designation to the building.

Two public hearings are scheduled for this summer -- June 9 and July 10 -- to take up the matter, she said. But until then, St. Laurentius is under the purview of city historical officials -- and demolition would require approval from the historic commission.

Even if the commission extends the historic designation to the church, however, the archdiocese can have it demolished if it's proved that would be in the public interest or if church officials show that rehabbing the building doesn't make financial sense.

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About the author

Bobby Allyn, Newsworks reporter

Bobby Allyn is a general assignment reporter for WHYY. Bobby grew up in Plymouth, a small blue-collar town in Northeastern Pennsylvania. He graduated from American University in Washington with a degree in philosophy. He's lived in Brooklyn, Portland and Sweden. 

He enjoys bike commuting and black coffee.

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