Once A Church Of The Brethren

115-117 Mt Airy Avenue Church of the Brethren
Number 115-117 E. Mt Airy Avenue isn’t your everyday Philly twin house. The long, plain sides, the gable end facing the street…  these lines give away the building’s origins as a long-ago house of the Lord.

At present, the owners of 117 are replacing old arched windows with easier, cheaper square ones. This happens a lot — it’s always a shame when it does — but even more so in this case because the structure was built as a church for the United Brethren in Christ. By 1880 the Mount Airy Presbyterian Church bought the building from the Brethren.  Some time later the church was sold again, the great interior space divided both horizontally and vertically by the construction of a second floor and party wall. Windows and doors were walled over, and new ones cut into the walls. Today just the arched top of the center attic window is original to the church.

115-117 Mt Airy Avenue 1880 Church of the Brethren new windows

That the Brethren are the original builders ties back to William Penn’s idealism, his express determination that Philadelphia and Pennsylvania be a “noble experiment” in tolerance.  Belonging to what would have been judged a heretical sect of Christianity in the old country could get you at best harassed, at worst imprisoned or executed.  Not only could established (if outlawed) denominations move here without fear, but new ones could come into being as well.  The United Brethren in Christ was the first of these American denominations, started in Lancaster County in 1767.

It’s fortunate that this building with its storied history still stands and is occupied.  But with each renovation, the Brethren’s Mount Airy church gets a little harder to recognize.


View Larger Map

About the author

Mike Szilagyi was born in the Logan neighborhood of Philadelphia, and raised in both Logan and what was the far edge of suburbia near Valley Forge. He found himself deeply intrigued by both the built landscape and by the natural “lay of the land.” Where things really get interesting is the fluid, intricate, multi-layered interface between the two.

Send a message!



1 Comment


  1. Rachel Hildebrandt

    This reminds me of a place in Mechanicsville! It’s a super old one room school house turned single family home. It’s surrounded by other single family homes and impossible to distinguish. It’s at 3146 Mechanicsville Road.

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
The Gallery: Finally The Destination Ed Bacon Hoped For?

The Gallery: Finally The Destination Ed Bacon Hoped For?

March 23, 2017  |  Vantage

PREIT's transformation of The Gallery into an upscale shopping outlet promises to be the suburban-minded downtown destination that the first mall failed to deliver. Contributor Chris Giuliano takes a look at the redevelopment of East Market and Edmond Bacon's original plan. > more

New Life For An Old Coal Country Outpost In Society Hill

New Life For An Old Coal Country Outpost In Society Hill

March 20, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

The Shadow takes a stroll down to Society Hill where business is stirring at an old 19th century coal company headquarters after 12 years of vacancy > more

New Exhibition Gives Movement To The Philadelphia School

New Exhibition Gives Movement To The Philadelphia School

March 17, 2017  |  Buzz

Two fans of Modernism re-evaluate architectural history with the exhibition, "What Was the Philadelphia School?" > more

Tracking The Evolution Of Industry At 34th And Grays Ferry

Tracking The Evolution Of Industry At 34th And Grays Ferry

March 16, 2017  |  Vantage

The site of Penn's new riverside research campus has a long, decorated history of industrial enterprise. Contributor Madeline Helmer dives deep into the backstory > more

Emergency Excavation In Old City Reveals Lack Of Oversight

Emergency Excavation In Old City Reveals Lack Of Oversight

March 15, 2017  |  News

The last-minute salvage excavation of First Baptist Church Burial Ground in Old City has the archaeological community up in arms. Is the City or the developer to blame? John Henry Scott reports > more

Ode To Old Philadelphia

Ode To Old Philadelphia

March 10, 2017  |  Buzz

Inspired by photographs from Hidden City's 2016 calendar, aging Philadelphians share their thoughts and memories of the city through poetry. Ann de Forest has the backstory > more