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
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

Rittenhouse SoundWorks Keeps The Tune Ups Coming In Old Auto Garage

Rittenhouse SoundWorks Keeps The Tune Ups Coming In Old Auto Garage

August 7, 2019  |  Vantage

A Germantown couple bet big on adaptive reuse when they converted an old garage into a full-service recording studio in 2014. Today, they are sought out by musicians from around the globe. Stacia Friedman has the story > more

In Germantown, Saving A Neighborhood's Character One Renovation At A Time

In Germantown, Saving A Neighborhood’s Character One Renovation At A Time

August 2, 2019  |  Vantage

Emily Birdie Busch profiles nine renovation projects in Germantown that are keeping the neighborhood's architectural history within view > more

Thunderbird Lodge Museum Connects Arts & Crafts Movement With Utopian Community

Thunderbird Lodge Museum Connects Arts & Crafts Movement With Utopian Community

July 29, 2019  |  Walk the Walk

Joe Brin takes use out to Rose Valley, Pennsylvania where a new house museum puts the Arts and Crafts movement front and center > more