Permits Issued for Partial Demolition of the Saint Laurentius Church at 1600 East Berks Street in Fishtown

1600 East Berks Street1600 East Berks Street Credit: City of Philadelphia

Permits have been issued for the demolition of the main towers and possibly other portions of the Saint Laurentius Church at 1600 East Berks Street in Fishtown. Current demolition costs are set at $500,000 for the 7-story, 141 year old church due to the ongoing threat of collapse. Andrew Menyo is the design professional listed for the demolition.

According to the demolition proposal provided to the City of Philadelphia, engineers predicted an 80 percent chance of collapse of the two main towers if not removed within three years, and a 100 percent chance of collapse if not removed within ten due to major cracking and lack of structural integrity. The demolition is under strict oversight from the Philadelphia Historic Commission and has a structured plan to ensure major portions of the building will be preserved, which include murals, stained glass, doors, and other items deemed historically significant. The structure is required to be scanned prior to demolition to preserve the facade digitally.

The church was created as a place of worship for the impoverished Catholic Polish community in 1882 after petitioning the Archbishop of Philadelphia James F. Wood. Architect Edwin Forrest Durang designed the Saint Laurentius which then became the oldest Catholic Polish church in Philadelphia. The building was officially closed in March of 2014. The City of Philadelphia and the owner of the property received proposals for a third party to renovate the structure and turn it into several residential units but all plans were unsuccessful due to rising costs and community intervention.

Demolition is slated to being in November 2021.

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4 Comments on "Permits Issued for Partial Demolition of the Saint Laurentius Church at 1600 East Berks Street in Fishtown"

  1. The Inquirer reports that the entire church is going to be demolished. Which report is correct? The interior contains some unusual artworks: murals painted in fresco (unfortunately) and wooden altarpieces carved in Germany. Typical Philly preservation fail.

  2. Or infighting among the Historical Commission led to this partial demolition. Artifacts could easily be removed and put in storage for further incorporation in new buildings or in other Catholic Churches.

    If they are going to tear down the main towers and possibly other portions of the church, it looks like more of an autopsy of the church than a full demolition of the building as if they want to show hard core dissidents of the Historical Commission how bad the church structure is before the Historical Commission will authorize the full demolition of the church. I am only speculating of what it may be.

    Given all that has happened, blame needs to be apportioned between the church group of dissident Catholics and the Historical Commission for holding up demolition of the current church for more than a decade. The only city agency qualified to decide on demolition issues is L & I and no one else including the Historical Commission.

  3. NIMBY’s lose … need to look in the mirror!

  4. “Artifacts could easily be removed and put in storage” – not the murals, not if they’re either true fresco or painted directly on the plaster, too big an expense. Let’s hope the alterpieces and windows are salvaged. Even if so, they’re unlikely to remain in the area. Why did the Philadelphia Polish-American community not step up?

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