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.

Trackbacks

  1. Favorite Church Architecture - Page 75 - Christian Forums

Leave a Reply

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

Recent Posts
Cherry Street Pier Raises The Bar For Dynamic Public Space

Cherry Street Pier Raises The Bar For Dynamic Public Space

October 19, 2018  |  Buzz

Cherry Street Pier is officially open for business. The 99-year-old maritime warehouse blends a public park with artist studios, food vendors, a beer garden, and incredible views of the Delaware River. Michael Bixler gives us a look inside > more

Defending Philly History From 3,000 Miles Away

Defending Philly History From 3,000 Miles Away

October 17, 2018  |  Vantage

Joshua Bevan knew he had to act after discovering the architectural beauty of Belmont. From his home in San Francisco he mobilized to nominate a neighborhood landmark for historic designation. In this essay Bevan describes his journey between the Bay Area and Philly to protect the McGaw Mansion > more

Design Coalition Aims To Bridge The Old-New Divide

Design Coalition Aims To Bridge The Old-New Divide

October 12, 2018  |  Walk the Walk

Move over Miami, the Philadelphia Design District is getting ready for some time in the spotlight. The coalition of gallery owners, artisans, and tech startups want to transform Old City into a hive of contemporary design, while preserving the neighborhood's historic character. Joe Brin takes a look inside the idea with co-founder Eugenie Perret > more

Germantown Boys & Girls Club Compromise Brings Peace To Penn Street

Germantown Boys & Girls Club Compromise Brings Peace To Penn Street

October 9, 2018  |  News

Owners of Germantown Boys and Girls Club reach an agreement with preservationists after two years of heated debate. Starr Herr-Cardillo has the news > more

Shakespeare & Co. Brings Old Bank Back To Life

Shakespeare & Co. Brings Old Bank Back To Life

October 4, 2018  |  Buzz

Manhattan-based bookstore and café revives an old banking storefront in Rittenhouse Square. Michael Bixler takes a look > more

Historic Districts Make A Comeback

Historic Districts Make A Comeback

October 2, 2018  |  Vantage

After nearly a decade of lost opportunities, creative new strategies emerge for protecting Philadelphia's historic neighborhoods > more