Furness-Designed Church In Philadelphia Closer to Preschool Conversion?
Developer Guy Laren and his band of neighborhood supporters are a zoning change away from moving forward on a project that would see the former Saint Peter’s Church of Christ building at 47th and Kingsessing converted into two preschools. Plans will be heard at a community zoning meeting today at 2pm, according to West Philly Local.
If granted approval, tots would be closer to having a superbly special place to spend their days, wouldn’t they? For not only does the property, which includes the church building and its adjacent parish house (pictured left), date back over a hundred years, but it claims the vaunted Frank Furness name as its designer, even if only in title and not in hand. From Hidden City’s Bradley Maule:
The church’s design came from the office of Furness, Evans & Co., the final iteration of Frank Furness’ architecture firm, which continued under that name until 1932—twenty years after his death. As Furness goes, the church is relatively understated from the outside, even compared to the parish house next door, completed in 1892. Michael Lewis, author of Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind (2001), has a theory on the church, which does not appear in the book.
“You’re correct that it doesn’t look like Furness in his prime, as the earlier parish house does,” Lewis said via email from Berlin. “By  the office was big enough that other architects on his staff could develop projects based on Furness’s guidance and advice; I think this is clearly one of those.”
WPL’s Mike Lyons reports renovations to the former church, originally known as the Church of the Atonement, started earlier this year, several months after it had been given a demolition sentence by the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections. It was saved at the last minute by Laren, Penn historic preservation professor Aaron Wunsch, and former Mayor Wilson Goode Sr.
Laren could not be reached for comment, but we will keep you posted as more information becomes available.
H/T: Community zoning meeting for church at 4700 Kingsessing this Tuesday [West Philly Local]