Demolition underway for Episcopal brownstones and 40th Street M.E. Church

For more than a year we’ve been anticipating the leveling of the Episcopal Cathedral’s brownstones at 38th and Chestnut and the razing of the former 40th Street Methodist Episcopal Church. And now, as 2013 wanes, demolition is underway at both sites.

Rendering of the bland glassy box that will be built at 40th and Sansom to replace the church. (2012)
Rendering of the bland glassy box that will be built at 40th and Sansom to replace the church. (2012)

As West Philly Local reported Monday, the the 40th Street Methodist Episcopal Church is currently being demolished, clearing the lot at 40th and Sansom for a thoroughly unremarkable commercial space which will house a Dunkin’ Donuts, Zesto Pizza, and other stores yet to be named.

The 136 year old church is attributed to architect Samuel Sloan, and it is one among many historic religious buildings in Philadelphia that is not listed in the Phialdelphia Register of Historic Places and therefore had no measure of protection against its destruction.

About a month ago we noticed that the windows had been removed, and knew demolition would be imminent. Demolition permits were initially obtained back in 2011.

Here’s a look:

38th and Chestnut tower rendering (May, 2013)
38th and Chestnut tower rendering (May, 2013)

And at 38th and Chestnut the Episcopal Cathedral, also designed by Samuel Sloan, is taking down the brownstones used as its rectory and parish house to make way for a mixed-use tower.

An official groundbreaking for this project took place on December 5 for this development, a partnership between the Episcopal Cathedral and Radnor Property Group. In place of the brownstones a new 25-story apartment tower and offices will be constructed. The development is intended to support the Cathedral itself.

Unlike the 40th Street Methodist Episcopal Church property, the nearby Episcopal Cathedral complex is listed in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, which meant that the Historical Commission had to grant a hardship to enable this project. The Episcopal Cathedral claimed hardship and sought the demolition on the grounds that it was “necessary in the public interest,” essentially arguing that the new development would underwrite the church’s social services and pay for important restoration work to the Cathedral building.

The Historical Commission granted that hardship last June, and that decision was subsequently appealed by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. That appeal was dropped in March 2013. 

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