Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The Battle over the Church of the Assumption has been won, however the war to save Philadelphia's historic churches languishes on. St. Boniface, another late nineteenth century gothic revival church, presides with a forlorn magesty over the modest brownstones and row homes which encapsulate Norris Square. Since its abandonment by the Archdiocese in 2006, it's brownstone facade has begun to deteriorate, it's stained glass windows were replaced with plexiglass and pieces of it's pews and altarpiece have been given to local residents and parishes as mementos. As of February, the circa 1872 structure has been slated for demolition to make way for a mixed-use retail/residential/community complex. While the project seems to incorporate the lesser structures of the original St. Boniface complex (rectory, convent and school), it appears that the church itself will go the way of the wrecking ball.
There will be many who assert that any effort for it's preservation is futile and we should passively accept it's imminent destruction, but I say, "Remember the Assumption!" We have seen the power and influence of community activists and associations as exemplified by the dedicated efforts of the Callowhill Neighborhood Association. Let the Church of the Assumption serve as a reminder and paradigm for future efforts by preservationist groups who strive to save some of the citys most important ecclesiastical structures.
As of yet there is no concerted movement to save St. Boniface and the local council (Norris Square Civic Association) appears to be in support of it's demolition. As the days and months wane so do the odds that any such movement will ever emerge. Subsequently, this beautiful edifice may vanish before our eyes without any objection or appeal. However, I believe the time has come to take a stand! Why must we idly and passively mourn the loss of our city's greatest architectural treasures, while there are so many of us who advocate their preservation? Let us turn the tide against the razing of Philadelphia's ecclesiastical masterpieces. The time has come to rally, organize and act!