Historic Philadelphia church building spared from demolition

A Philadelphia church has been granted a reprieve.

The decommissioned church where St. Katharine Drexel was baptized had been slated for demolition. But a surprising move by the city’s Licenses and Inspections Review Board Tuesday has halted the wrecking ball.

The battle over the fate of the Church of the Assumption has pitted community members and preservationists against a nonprofit group that helps people with AIDS and HIV.

Lawyer Kevin Boyle represents Siloam, the group that wanted to demolish the building on Spring Garden Street. Boyle said he thought they had a strong case.

“I was a bit surprised. I think they did an excellent job of making the case,” Boyle said. “They had real estate brokers, they had engineers, they had religious experts, they had everything that would be needed and more.”

Boyle said the group has not decided if it will appeal.

The other side is happy, for now.

Wayne Spilove, chairman of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, called the church “a real piece of history.”

“I’m glad that they stepped to the plate and, through a grassroots effort of the community group and the Preservation Alliance, were able to halt the demolition of this magnificent structure.” Spilove said.

Spilove said he’ll work with the community and developers to see if the building can be converted into an arts venue or some other use.

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