Tag: 47th Street

Holy Housing

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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Location, Location, Location

Have you ever wondered how our story—and our neighbourhood — might have been different if our church had been built in a different place?

So many spots were considered in the early days of our parish that it’s hard to keep track of what was real! The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in July 1890 that a site had been “secured” for first pastor Rev. Joseph O’Neill’s new church at “Forty-Seventh street near Chestnut.” Then, on October 31, it reported that “last week” Rev. Joseph O’Neill “purchased” a large lot “at Forty-seventh street and Chester avenue.” Were these two different plots or was the paper confused? A 1928 parish history affirms that Rev. O’Neill “secured a site at Forty-seventh Street and Chester Avenue, 250 feet by 150 feet, for the price of $15,000. But then, just to complicate things, a memo has surfaced referencing a “deed from Anthony A. Hirst to Most Reverend Patrick John Ryan, Archbishop of Philadelphia, recorded…July 1st, 1890, for the property at the intersection of 47th Street and Warrington Avenue and running through to Baltimore Avenue.” (the corner now occupied by the 801 S. 47th St. Cedar Park Place apartment building. The southern property line was actually closer to Windsor).

The 1894 First Annual Report of the Parish Debt Association – the closest document to the time – described the challenge of consolidating enough land to build since “the holders of certain lots would not sell, offering as an objection that they were opposed to the school which Catholics made the accompaniment of the church and parochial house. Other ground was reported swampy, and would not be accepted.” It confirmed the Forty-seventh and Warrington Avenuepurchase and observedIt was not the place most desired, but it was hoped that the Baptists, who had bought the property at the North-east corner of Forty-Seventh and Springfield Avenue, might eventually sell to them.”

Father O’Neill went to Europe July 1 and returned October 8, but negotiations continued while he was away, with Rev. P.J. Garvey (pastor of St. James at 38th and Chestnut — the “Mother Parish” of St. Francis de Sales) and lawyer Anthony A. Hirst working on his behalf.  At some point, Rev. O’Neill was notified that the “property at the North-east corner of Forty-seventh and Springfield Avenue was secured through his attorney, Anthony A. Hirst, Esquire.” A September 29 memo from Rev.  P.J. Garvey to Archbishop Patrick John Ryan noted that “this property referred to by Mr. Hirst and located at the South east (oopsie) corner of 47th St. and Springfield Avenue is in my judgement a much better and more suitable site for a church than that secured by Father O’Neill before his departure. I feel sure Father O’Neill will be well pleased at the change because this SE Cor. of 47th & Springfield Avenue was the place he wished to purchase in the first instance…While favoring this new site in preference to the old one, I must say that I think the new church should be nearer to Woodland Avenue and somewhat further West; but if 47th & Springfield suits Father O’Neill and the new congregation I shall be satisfied. Your obedient child in Christ, P.J. Garvey.” The Springfield Ave. deed was signed over on October 15, 1890.

According to the 1894 report, once the Springfield Ave. lot was purchased, “the former lot was then offered for sale. A small portion of it was retained to make ample room for the new buildings.” This has to refer to the Warrington/Baltimore Ave. site, which bordered the Springfield lot: the report continues “The lot held by Father O’Neill had a frontage of one hundred and forty feet and a depth of two hundred and sixty-five feet,” which matches the dimensions on the Springfield Ave. deed plus an extra fifteen-foot strip.

Oddly, the 1928 history, 34 years later, forgot Warrington and mentioned only the Chester Ave. plot, noting that “Father O’Neill returned in October (1890), and finding the site he had earlier purchased unsuitable, he disposed of it.” Assuming we are not dealing with multiple realities in alternate universes, this suggests that Father O’Neill could have purchased two properties to sell once he decided on 47th and Springfield Ave. Now, 132 years later, here we are, in a neighbourhood landmark under a Guastavino dome. Good choices?!