The demolition of a shuttered church begins after a long battle

Demolition of a closed 19th-century church in Philadelphia has begun after a year-long battle by some neighbors to save the crumbling structure.

Last week, teams surrounded the 140-year-old St. Lawrence Church in the Fishtown neighborhood with scaffolding, fencing and barricades. Neighbors gathered on Wednesday to have their last look, taking photos and pointing to the huge cross, once attached to the building, which was against a fence, KYW reported.

“I don’t want to see any church of any denomination fall,” Margaret Ann Ramsey told KYW. “It’s always been part of the region, so it’s sad, especially for the people who belong to this parish.”

Michael Johnson of HC Site Construction told WTXF-TV that the work to dismantle the 150-foot booms is done by hand, with material dropped through chutes down to the basement to avoid vibrations from hoist activity. trucks.

The city’s licensing and inspections department issued a demolition permit nearly a year ago, but officials said moving utility poles and wires that surround the property took longer than expected. . Crews were also told to wait until summer due to classes at a nearby Catholic school, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

St. Lawrence is listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, and the Philadelphia Historical Commission has ordered the developer to preserve or reconstruct the facade of the church in any new development. A zoning permit for an eight-story, 49-unit multi-family residential project is under appeal, the newspaper reported.

The church was built in 1882 with donations from Polish immigrants. In 2014, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced its closure, citing “vertical cracks” and a “heavily deteriorated” facade that threatened to collapse without a $3.5 million restoration. Proponents said their estimates only totaled $700,000. The historic commission added the church to the city’s historic register in 2015.

Concerns arose in 2019 when pieces of the facade collapsed, in one case with 6,000 pounds (2,720 kilograms) of rock breaking loose from a spire, puncturing steel scaffolding and falling into a fenced safety area around church, causing the nearby school to close for two days.

The archdiocese spent $135,000 to stabilize the building, and city inspectors said it appeared to be in better condition, but later two engineers hired by the new owner concluded that Saint-Laurent had significantly degraded, with one predicting “at least partial collapse” within a year. decade. A structural engineer hired by the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia said the building remained standing despite dire assessments by a number of engineers.