Churches for Sale

 

Ruffin Nichols AME Church. Photo by Rachel Hildebrandt

At the northwest corner of 11th and Mt. Vernon, just two blocks from the celebrated and recently spared Church of the Assumption, a stunning Gothic church stands shuttered. The former Ruffin Nichols Memorial AME Church, originally built in 1844 and rebuilt in 1909, is for sale. The church is listed by prominent local developer Lawrence Rust for $899,900. Rust is best-known for Spring Arts Point, the large mixed-use development planned for 10th and Green.

It is not news that churches through the country are facing challenging times. Declining attendance, decreased giving from congregants, and high operation and maintenance costs are forcing many congregations to either close their doors permanently or to move into smaller buildings. The result? A growing stock of churches for sale.

Many churches throughout the city are for sale, with some being actively marketed and others not. Listed online are:

  • St. Andrew Ukrainian Catholic Church (425-29 Pine St.) – $2,000,000
  • All Saints Episcopal Church (6301-09 Crescentville Rd.) – $780,000
  • St. Barnabus P.E. Church (2300 N. 3rd St.) – $750,000
  • Orthodox Street M.E. Church (2228-36 Orthodox St.) – $335,000
  • Christ Independent Baptist Church (114 W. Ontario St.) – $270,000
  • Mt. Cavalry Apostolic Church (7255 Ogontz Ave.) – Price not disclosed
  • Fourth Reformed Presbyterian Church (310 Monastery Ave.) – Price not disclosed

Unfortunately, in the past year, several closed churches have been demolished to clear the path for new development. This typically occurs in neighborhoods in transition where demand for new housing is high, such as Graduate Hospital and Francisville.  This happens unnecessarily.

Throughout the country, hundreds of churches have been adapted to accommodate new uses, collectively serving as a reminder that demolition is not inevitable. In Philadelphia, one can find churches that have been converted into single family residences, condominiums, apartments, offices, schools, arts centers, photography studios, and performance venues. The most notable examples of reuse include Fleisher Art Memorial, the Rotunda, and Chapel Lofts.

Fleisher Art Memorial, a Philadelphia Museum of Art-operated arts group that offers free and low-cost art classes for children and adults, is housed in the former church and school of the Church of the Evangelist (1884-1886) at 719 Catherine in Bella Vista. The impressive sanctuary remains virtually unchanged, hosting classes and the occasional special event while the school now contains updated classrooms and studio space.

Cavalry Baptist Church | Photo: Peter Woodall

The First Church of Christ Scientist (1911) at 4014 Walnut in University City is now home to the Rotunda, a community-oriented performance hall. The Carrère and Hastings-designed building contains two performance spaces, the circular sanctuary and the smaller Sunday school room, which host a total of over 300 events per year.

Chapel Lofts, an apartment building, occupies the former Christ Evangelical and Reformed Church (1860) at 1520 Green in Spring Garden. At Chapel Lofts, developer Gary Reisner did an outstanding job of incorporating the church’s historic elements (including the costly-to-restore stained and painted glass windows) into the new units. One of the most distinguished units is the Apse Unit, containing the altar turned mini basketball court with a built in wine cabinet.

Recently, Naked Philly reported some encouraging news: the adaptive reuse of a church in Spring Garden is underway. Loonstyn Brothers Construction LLC will convert the former Cavalry Baptist Church at 655 N. 16th Street into ten residential units.

About the author

Rachel Hildebrandt, a graduate of PennDesign, is a native Philadelphian who is passionate about the changing city she inhabits. Before beginning her graduate studies in historic preservation with a focus on policy, Rachel obtained a B.A. in Psychology from Chestnut Hill College and co-authored two books, The Philadelphia Area Architecture of Horace Trumbauer (2009) and Oak Lane, Olney, and Logan (2011). She currently works as a senior program manager at Partners for Sacred Places.



1 Comment


  1. Thank you for an interesting read. I would love to repurpose a church one day.

Leave a Reply

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

Recent Posts
Philadelphia's Forgotten Forebears: How Pennsylvania Erased The Lenape From Local History

Philadelphia’s Forgotten Forebears: How Pennsylvania Erased The Lenape From Local History

August 23, 2019  |  Vantage

In this poignant essay Dan Shurley looks at the mistreatment of the Lenape in Pennsylvania and how historic Philadelphia still manages to misrepresent and largely ignore the city's native people > more

A Reconstructionist Synagogue Weaves Itself Into Manayunk’s Industrial Fabric

A Reconstructionist Synagogue Weaves Itself Into Manayunk’s Industrial Fabric

August 22, 2019  |  Vantage

The congregation of Mishkan Shalom promotes sanctuary and social reform inside a 137-year-old textile mill on Freeland Avenue. Scotty Meiser has the story > more

African-American Abolitionist & Son Of Former Vice President Aaron Burr Receives Formal Recognition

African-American Abolitionist & Son Of Former Vice President Aaron Burr Receives Formal Recognition

August 19, 2019  |  News

The remains of John Pierre Burr, a black Philadelphia abolitionist and natural son of former Vice President Aaron Burr, has resided in an unmarked grave for more than a century. He will receive formal recognition and an official headstone on Saturday, August 24. Kessler Thibert has the details > more

Historic Maritime Landmark Under Threat After Construction Mishap

Historic Maritime Landmark Under Threat After Construction Mishap

August 15, 2019  |  News

Deferred maintenance and a construction error endangers Edward Corner warehouse, one of the waterfront's last prominent reminders of Philadelphia's shipping history. Starr Herr Cardillo has the details > more

In Northeast Philadelphia, A Rich History Of Train Tracks And Acquisitions

In Northeast Philadelphia, A Rich History Of Train Tracks And Acquisitions

August 13, 2019  |  Vantage

Ed Duffy give us a panoramic view of railroad history in Northeast Philadelphia with this longform essay > more

Eastern State Penitentiary Illuminates “Hidden Lives” Of The Incarcerated

Eastern State Penitentiary Illuminates “Hidden Lives” Of The Incarcerated

August 9, 2019  |  News

"Hidden Lives Illuminated," an animated film project created by inmates of SCI Chester, debuts at Eastern State Penitentiary on August 15. Kimberly Haas went inside the state prison to speak with the incarcerated artists > more