Morning Headlines: Saving a Frank Furness-Related Church Is a Labor of Love

19th Street Baptist Church was on the brink of demolition.

It's getting there. | Photo: Google Street View

It’s getting there. | Photo: Google Street View

Although it’s still in need of millions of dollars in repairs in order to be returned to its former glory, the 19th Street Baptist Church at 19th and Titan streets in Point Breeze is slowly, but surely, being saved. Given the amount of church demolitions this city sees each year, can we all give the congregation of the church and Aaron Wunsch, a professor of historic preservation at Penn, a collective hallelujah?

Newsworks reports the city has cleared away one historic church each month over the past few years and Wunsch, along with Deacon Lloyd Butler and other church members, has done yeoman’s work to make sure this church, officially designed by George W. Hewitt in 1874 during a partnership in a firm with Frank Furness, wasn’t added to that dubious list: 

That plan involved “lumber from Lowe’s — or maybe it was Home Depot — and corrugated metal, which doesn’t fit with anyone’s ideas about what goes on a historic church, but keeps the weather out for a long time,” Wunsch said.

With some fundraising help from Pastor Wilbur Winborne, a former member of the congregation who now lives in New Jersey, the church was able to secure almost $50,000 in order to fix the roof in the sanctuary. The building is now “dry,” although the congregation can’t fully use the main sanctuary. Sure, it still needs a ton of work, but the important part is that it’s still there.

This isn’t the only Furness-related church to stave off the wrecking ball in recent times. The Church of Atonement/Saint Peter’s Church of Christ at 47th and Kingsessing Avenue in West Philadelphia was saved from demolition at the 11th hour, thanks in large part to a group by Wunsch, Guy Laren and former mayor  Wilson Goode Sr. The sacred building will be renovated and converted into “commercial space that will likely house schools,” according to West Philly Local.

• Historic South Philly church finds salvation in group effort [Newsworks]

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