St. Boniface is all but gone, Central United Methodist Church on its way down

These are trying times for Philadelphia’s aging religious buildings.

The Frankford Gazette reports that demolition work has started at Central United Methodist Church, a Hazlehurst and Huckel designed beauty dating from 1892. It’s the rough ending after a bad year that included a wall collapse and vandalism. All told, a violent ending for a beautiful building.

Hidden City Daily reports that St. Boniface Church has almost been leveled, and they share two photos of its ruinous state.

The demolition of the St. Boniface Church complex on Norris Square started last year, at the hands of the Norris Square Civic Association. According to the NSCA website, NSCA’s hope is to build limited-equity co-op housing, and a community center on the St. Boniface site.

.In 2010 the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia listed St. Boniface as one of the city’s most endangered church properties . After the Archdiocese of Philadelphia closed the school and church in 2006, NSCA purchased the St. Boniface complex in 2007. In 2010 the Community Design Collaborative worked with NSCA to evaluate some redevelopment scenarios for the complex and to proposed a master plan for the site’s redevelopment, including an approach to the church’s demolition and reuse of other structures. It’s not clear to me why, in a neighborhood of so many vacant lots, the church itself needed to be razed to meet the considerable affordable-housing needs of the Norris Square community.

NSCA’s 2011 annual meeting report posted online notes their real estate projects, the largest of which is the St. Boniface site, have received $9 million from HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, and $5 million from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Captial Program, and $500,000 from the City of Philadelphia.

I stopped by Norris Square in late February figuring I’d see active demolition, but the site was all quiet. The Philadelphia Church Project blog posted a recent email from a reader who had gone snooping at St. Boniface who said she thought that there might be some environmental issues on the site. She snapped some photos showing a glimpse of the interior, which you can see on flickr here.

Here are my shots of St. Boniface on one of its last days:

Coming soon: PlanPhilly’s JoAnn Greco has a story about our Philadelphia’s vast inventory of historic but underused religious buildings, and the consequences of losing these neighborhood anchors.

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