The building owned by the Church of Scientology at 1312-1314 Chestnut – 57,720 square feet on a 38′ x 103′ lot — was originally home to the Cunningham Piano Company. The company was founded in the late 19th century at 11th and Chestnut when, according to Hidden City, Chestnut Street East was known as Piano Row. But the company outgrew its beginnings, and bought the double-mansion Irwin Estate for an eventual transformation into a 15-story tower designed by Andrew J. Sauer.
Writing for HC, the ever illuminating Grojlart called the building a “damn near a religious experience” for him and said Sauer’s firm “knocked it out of the park” with its “beautiful slender facade from top to bottom.”
Between 1936 and 2000, the building changed hands a number of times. In 2001, it was purchased by its most notorious owner until Scientology came along: New York/Miami/13th Street developer Tony Goldman, who wanted to turn it into condos. When that didn't pan out, Goldman sold the building to the Church of Scientology, which has been sitting on the Cunningham Piano building for six long years, doing absolutely nothing with it.
In a story by Gizmodo about Philadelphia's plan to take the Church to blight court, the website notes that Philly isn't unique; the Church "has reportedly spent roughly half a billion dollars buying up buildings in U.S. cities over the past few years" and leaving them vacant in many cases. It's an effort to make it look like Scientology is growing, even though it's not, and to syphon money from members.
Gizmodo hypothesizes that by taking the Church to blight court, the city may actually spur an influx of contributions from adherents.
But one of the site's readers has something else to suggest:
Party Wall Like A Rockstar [Hidden City]
Guiding blight [Daily News]