Our church is a local landmark, but threads of parish history are also woven into the greater fabric of the neighborhood, in past-lives of other buildings and locations. Here are some, possibly surprising, former residences of SFDS clergy and religious through time:
1422 South 49th Street (before Woodland). When the parish was first formed in 1890, it met in a “rented hall on the southwest side of Woodland Ave. below 49th St.” First Pastor Rev. Joseph O’Neill had been living at St. James (38th and Chestnut) “but knowing that there is no parish without a priest, a small two-story house was rented at 1422 South 49th Street” The 1895 First Annual Report of the Parish Debt Association observed that “The burden of debt” related to purchasing the land needed for the chapel “was the reason of the economy that the new pastor was obliged to practice in selecting his first place of dwelling…”
4509 Regent. After the chapel was dedicated in 1891, the same 1895 report notes that Father O’Neill moved from 49th Street to what appears then to have been a boarding house at 4509 Regent Street, where he lived for two and a half years until the newly-built rectory was ready on December 20, 1893.
47th and Windsor. According to IHM records, before the IHM Sisters arrived in 1904, “Father Crane appealed to the good people of the parish to provide ‘as a gift to the Divine King’ a home for the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who were to take charge of the school. The response far surpassed his most sanguine hopes, and a residence opposite the school was accordingly purchased. The first community arrived at Saint Francis de Sales. Convent on Thursday 25 August 1904.” (the original house stood on the corner where the convent is today)
4804 Baltimore. The 1940 Parish Jubilee Book relates that “The building used as a convent was overcrowded from the beginning and was badly in need of repairs, so in the summer of 1915, the sisters took up residence at 4804 Baltimore Ave…” for two months while their original convent house at 47th and Windsor was renovated.
47th and Chester NE corner. According to IHM records, “The old convent was torn down and the cornerstone of the new building was laid by the Right Reverend Bishop in 1926.” While the new convent was under construction, the IHM Sisters lived at 47th and Chester in what appears to have been a big house with a wraparound porch (an apartment building stands there today)
914 south 49th (between Springfield and Warrington). According to the 1989 Parish First Hundred Years Jubilee Book, in 1977, the Religious of the Assumption “opened a house as a home for sisters involved in education programs and sisters attending the University of Pennsylvania. They also became involved in parish social work.” (They moved to their present location at 1001 S. 47th St. in 1999).
928 Farragut Terrace. When he was a boy, long before he became a Bishop and our Fifth Pastor, young Joseph McShea lived in a house that stood right behind the school. He noted: “my family home stood on Farragut Terrace (number 928) and was sold to the parish in 1925 to help provide space for the enlargement of the school”
929 Farragut Terrace. When Saint Lucy Day School for the blind was dedicated by Bishop McShea in 1956, the Catholic Standard and Times reported that “A complete convent for the staff of four Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who have been especially trained for this work is located on the third floor.” The building later served as the IHM Center for Literacy. Now it’s a private home, belonging to a parish family!
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I was born and raised in the Regent Street house. I had always thought it was family legend that that house was the first rectory of Saint Francis de Sales, turns out my father was not making it up!