Historic Church in Graduate Hospital To Be Converted Into Offices

Developers are going to make an office building out of a century-old church.

First African Baptist Church, 16th and Christian | Via Google Street View

First African Baptist Church, 16th and Christian | Via Google Street View

Developers of the First African Baptist Church at 1606-08 Christian St. in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood have announced their plans for the 109-year-old building. According to Natalie Kostelni of the Philadelphia Business Journal, new owners are planning on conducting the necessary structural renovations and then converting the former house of worship into office space for one or multiple tenants.

It’s been a tumultuous few months for the former home of the oldest African American Baptist church in Philadelphia.

The church recently sold the building to a development group for $2.05 million, which was well below the $3.2 million that the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the Rev. Terrence Griffith, the Church’s pastor, was hoping for. The development group includes Bill Vessal, who has previously worked on residential projects in Northern Liberties, and three other developers.

Griffith believed that the building, built in 1906, was in disrepair and needed to be sold in order to secure the financial future of the church.

According to PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey, amid the ensuing dispute over whether or not to sell the building, church members who wanted to keep it pushed to add the building to the Philadelphia Historical Commission’s register of historical places, in the hopes that it could block or hinder a sale. The building was added to the register in October, which meant that the building had to be preserved and wouldn’t meet the wrecking ball.

The First African Baptist Church was formed in 1809 and moved into the Christian St. site in 1906, where it remained until the recent sale.