Day Of Reckoning Nigh At Another Furness Church

April 4, 2013 | by Christopher Mote


Pews remain untouched in the nave | Photo: Bradley Maule

Pews remain untouched in the nave | Photo: Bradley Maule

Another church with ties to Frank Furness is quietly falling apart in West Philadelphia.

The former Episcopal Church of the Atonement at 47th Street & Kingsessing Avenue has been served with a 30-day “repair or demolish” notice by the Department of Licenses and Inspections. Known as St. Peter’s Church of Christ since 1979, the building has several violations dating to 2008, including loose bricks and a dilapidated roof.

Bell phone tower: a series of cell phone antennae installed on the church's bell tower failed to bring in the revenue needed to stabilize the church | Photo: Bradley Maule

Bell phone tower: a series of cell phone antennae installed on the church’s bell tower failed to bring in the revenue needed to stabilize the church | Photo: Bradley Maule

After neighbors complained about its deteriorating condition, the church installed a series of cell phone antennae on its bell tower as a last ditch effort to secure funds and stabilize the building. Attempts to reach the church administration failed.

The original Church of the Atonement was founded in 1847 and located at 17th and Summer Streets. After the parish disbanded in 1896, a new Church of the Atonement was constructed in 1900; its parish house next door was built in 1892. Originally called St. Paul’s, it was renamed to honor the memory of the old Atonement’s rector, Dr. Benjamin Watson, who died in 1899.

The design was the work of Furness, Evans and Company. Another Furness work, the Memorial Church of the Holy Comforter (now known as 19th Street Baptist) in Point Breeze, has also visibly deteriorated, although its congregation has been able to secure the building.


About the Author

Christopher Mote Christopher Mote covers stories of preservation, planning, zoning and development. He lives in South Philadelphia and has a special fondness for brownstone churches and mansard roofs.


  1. Shawn Evans says:

    Either of these on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places?

    1. Christopher Mote says:

      19th Street Baptist is on the Philly Register.

  2. bigred says:

    how did you get the photo of the interior?

    1. Soldat says:

      Lol, take a guess.

  3. Rich says:

    If you can have a ten year tax abatement for condos……… Why not dangle that carrot out in front of developers to save these places.. No breaks for anyone until all these places are saved. THINK ABOUT IT ! Maybe a voter ballot , ask Philadelphians if they want to reserve any further tax abatements breaks , whatever it’s called for structures the historical society , archectual groups , VOTERS ! Want to save . How many more churches and schools have to be destroyed before we look like one big subdivision ? The Edison school on lehigh and 7th is being ripped apart as I write this . If they offered breaks when it was first closed it would have been converted , but a save a lots going in there with some fast food joint , ( whatever happened to helping out Germantown ave just down the street ? ) don’t you save a commercial corridor by pushing new stores THERE ? With all the mty stores on Germantown they couldn’t carve out space for a save a lot there ? People visit philly for its rich history and we just keep tearing it down . ……….. This is just SAD !

  4. MoistSlacks says:

    No one wants to live there. Build whatever you want there, no one will move to it. It’s not a great building, and it’s in a horrible neighborhood.

    1. Soldat says:

      As a building it is superior to any of the garbage the “architects” of today are putting out.

      Crime is low and they keep it that way with a volunteer police substation. The poverty level is just below the average from the city average and the average home value is above average for the city. Compared to an actual horrible neighborhood like Fairhill, where the poverty rate is more than double what it is here and homes half the price. It is Squirrel Hill for shits sake man, it either part of or just outside of University City depending on what map you are looking at.

  5. Daryll says:

    I have some interior and exterior photos of the building before the renovations. I was one of the carpenters who did some of the work in this outstanding Furness Church. If anyone would like to see the photos feel free to email me and I will send them.

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