A Moment For Atonement

A Moment For Atonement

 

Ghost sanctuary on Kingsessing | Photo: Bradley Maule

Ghost sanctuary on Kingsessing | Photo: Bradley Maule

As I walked through St. Peter’s Church of Christ yesterday, the dying light of the afternoon cast an incredible golden glow through the stained glass windows—the ones that still remained.

Built as the Church of the Atonement in 1900 with a design from Furness, Evans & Co., this West Philadelphia house of worship appears to be short on time. Neighbors have been concerned about its condition since well before one of its celtic crosses crashed onto the 47th Street sidewalk, luckily hurting no one. The exterior has crumbling rooflines, busted out windows, and trees growing through walls. But it’s the interior where an L&I repair-or-demolish notice seems to make the most sense.

At the rear of the nave, the main window has retained its gothic outline, but a third of its glass has crashed over the holy water font below, and its mullion was hanging on by only the steel that used to hold the glass in place. Holes in the floor looked like the result of someone dropping bowling balls from the vaulted ceiling until they burst through. At the front of the sanctuary, the large Bible used for scripture readings was still opened to the Book of Isaiah. The hymn board still showed the last service’s selections, hymns 166, 2, and 346. The pastor’s office had additional hymnals, a bible, inspirational posters depicting holy scenes, and receipt books on church letterhead—next to a box of emptied tithing envelopes. And over all of it lie a half-inch thick layer of dust. It looks like the congregation left during an earthquake a decade ago and never returned.

You hate to see yet another gorgeous neighborhood structure like this lay to waste, let alone another with a Furness pedigree. The cracks in the wall and bell tower, however, pit a growing danger to the community against an incredibly expensive race to preserve a sacred landmark that’s across the street from one (Crusaders for Christ Church) and two blocks from another (St. Francis de Sales).

All photos are from Wednesday, April 3rd.

About the author

Bradley Maule is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and the creator of Philly Skyline. He's a native of Tyrone, Pennsylvania, and he's hung his hat in Shippensburg, Germantown, G-Ho, Fishtown, Portland OR, Brewerytown, and now Mt. Airy. He just can't get into Twitter, but he's way into Instagram @mauleofamerica.



5 Comments


  1. Let the stampede of “urbexers” begin.

  2. Am I to believe that not one college or non profit that receives tax brakes from the city or state can reuse this magnificent structure ? The city should compile a list of grand structures like this one and tell whomever wants a tax break that these buildings will have the front of the line for tax brakes or abatements . Until all these structures are saved , NO ONE GETS A BREAK ! All these organizations get help one way or another so
    if they want the help or non profit status to continue……………. They gotta help save phillys past . Otherwise
    we loose our history , our character and ANY reason for people to visit or company’s to set up shop . We’ll
    be just another bland boring place……. WHO WANTS THAT ?

  3. About 10 years ago, when cell phone towers were being installed all over the city at a fast pace, there was some slight hope that this church would use some of the rental money from the cell phone signal transmitters installed on the bell tower (seen in your photo #11) to fund repairs. Alas, twas not to be. My understanding from neighbors is that the congregation leaders are no longer around/in touch. This is a sad and frustrating case, repeated all over town.

    To comment to Rich above, while I agree that it’s awful to lose these structures, one only needs to look at the Church of the Assumption case (well covered by Hidden City) to see that reuse by non-profits carries risks and problems of another kind. Wish I had a better answer.

    • They were holding services in the adjoining Parish house not very long ago, I guess they closed that up and split.

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