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 Marvelous Multiple Occupations Of The Midtown II

The Marvelous Multiple Occupations Of The Midtown II

December 11, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

Last June, one of Center City's last classic diners, Midtown II at 11th and Sansom, closed its lunch counter for good. The high-profile property is now under development, although plans for the space remain elusive. The Shadow takes us behind the façade to reveal a lively list of tenants and a colorful history of reuse > more

Secrets! Romance! Scandal! The Hush-Hush Love Of Philly's Paint King And His Irish Lass

Secrets! Romance! Scandal! The Hush-Hush Love Of Philly’s Paint King And His Irish Lass

December 8, 2017  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. takes us to Old City where the flames of a secret affair scorched newspaper headlines in the early 1900s > more

Marc Lamont Hill Energizes Germantown Ave With New Bookstore Cafe

Marc Lamont Hill Energizes Germantown Ave With New Bookstore Cafe

December 6, 2017  |  Vantage

Academic, activist, and political commentator Marc Lamont Hill carries the tradition of the Black-owned bookstore into the 21st century with Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books. John Henry Scott has the details > more

Give $$$, Get a Cool Perk: 2017 Campaign

Give $$$, Get a Cool Perk: 2017 Campaign

December 4, 2017  |  Vantage

Hidden City's annual fund drive is in full swing on Generosity and we've got a brand new batch of perks celebrating Philadelphia available. Here's a look at this year's killer lineup > more

Three Historic Designation Removals Call Procedure Into Question

Three Historic Designation Removals Call Procedure Into Question

November 30, 2017  |  Vantage

Three historic properties on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places were abruptly stripped of legal protection last week. Contributor Starr Herr-Cardillo unpacks the details of each situation > more

Before Digital Sign Domination, A Giant Coffee Pot Reigned Supreme

Before Digital Sign Domination, A Giant Coffee Pot Reigned Supreme

November 29, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

The Shadow pours us a steamy cup of Center City history with the story behind Ellis Coffee Company's ginormous percolator that once lorded over South 16th Street > more