Consummatum Est: The Demolition of Transfiguration

November 23, 2009 § 44 Comments

 

["IT IS FINISHED"--TEXT AND PHOTOS BY JEREMY QUATTLEBAUM]

On the corner of 56th and Cedar in West Philadelphia stands the last remnants of the Church of the Transfiguration. Vacant since 2000, the church was shut down by the archdiocese along with the school, convent, and rectory complex. When Boy’s Latin purchased the Church of Transfiguration’s school complex, it also purchased the church, which is being demolished to allow the school to expand.

 

Only the Chancel, Apse and Sacristy remain of the structure, the Nave has been all but demolished. Left to the elements, the gold painted mural of Jesus and several saints catch the rays of the afternoon sun, while much of the hand hewed masonry lays about the demolition site.

Some of the ornate columns remain, with the also gold painted images of griffins flanking the cross, giving glimpses of the once grand elegance of the sanctuary.

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§ 44 Responses to Consummatum Est: The Demolition of Transfiguration

  • Nicole says:

    Nice work Jeremy!

  • Georgia says:

    How unfortunate – the wall art is lovely.

  • eileen says:

    This was my childhood church and school. I graduated in 1958. This demolition is a tragic event. Nothing that beautiful should ever be torn down. Go to Venice…..churches are not thrown away! The Archdiocese is money mad and paying for the sins of the fathers.

  • J says:

    I was there for some of the pre-demo prep work. That church was completely infested with fleas. It was nasty. Still, sorry to see the church go. Great pics!

  • tdenton says:

    I’m sorry people don’t notice that it its the Boy’s Latin school that currently owns the property and that is tearing it down not the Archdiocese.

    • Terry C - NJ says:

      The Archdiocese abandoned that church in 2000 and let it rot for nine years.

      This was AFTER they made over a million dollars profit by selling it to those crooks at the Follieri group.

    • Mary Beth K says:

      Your correct T Denton, but, the Archdiocese did not sell the property till about 2005 or 2006. That was plenty of time to respectfully dismantle this church. But, I don’t think Boys Latin is being a good exampl to the boys of this school. I feel they are showing that you don’t art or hold anything sacred, such as a church.

      • Mary Beth K says:

        What I meant to say was that Boys Latin is showing that you do not need to respect a church or even art.

      • Ruth Naddeo says:

        Mary Beth, I have been looking for a long time for pictures of the demolished “Transy” and came across these pictures and this blog today.
        Your Aunt Mary Jane and your mom ,too, were two of my dearest friends. I knew your grandmother too. After your grandmother died I lost track of your mother. I live in Florida. I would love to hear from you.
        Ruth Naddeo

  • J says:

    This church reminds me of another empty, soon to be demolished one at 11th and Spring Garden. It’s big, old, and beautiful, but what can you do with it? The Spring Garden church has an estimated price of 3 million dollars to restore it, and even if it was restored, what could you do with it? It would be a big, expensive, empty former church. Tourism wouldn’t even begin to pay for upkeep on the property. I agree it is awful to see them come down, but what else can you do with these properties?

  • J says:

    Assumption BVM was scheduled to be demolished. The neighborhood petitioned to have it placed on the national registrar and saved, which I agree sounds great. Unfortunately, the reality is it’s owned by a non-profit that operates out of the rectory next door. The non-profit only wanted to buy the rectory, but the Arch-Diocese told them it’s a rectory & church deal only, no substitutions. The non-profit planned on operating out of the rectory and demo’ing the church. Now that the church is protected, the non-profit has to pay to have it rehabbed. Unfortunately, the cost of rehab is about 20 times the annual budget of the non-profit, which, if you want to read the mission statement of these heartless church-smashers is : “… (Siloam) enriches the well-being of people impacted by HIV/AIDS by providing a broad range of integrative mind/body/spirit services that empowers them to develop skills and personal strengths leading to more meaningful lives.”
    I hate to see churches knocked down, but there are no easy answers.

    • michelle says:

      Also, I think the decission by the historic commission came at the same meeting they allowed a developer to demolish the Hillman Medical Center and build a taller building than zoning allows, over the objections of two neighboring (active) churches, since otherwise they couldn’t make enough money. But not this non-profit is stuck with an average church they can’t use.

      Not really related to this church, just makes me really angry.

  • Joe Kearney says:

    Very minor correction: from newscliping Evn. Bulletin Dec. 2, 1927
    Above the main altar a glass mosaic depicting the Crucification, 1200 feet in area, will shine with a brilliancy unequalled by any other building material known.
    Each piece of glass will be set by hand. The glass pieces are three eights of an inch square.

  • clementine says:

    MY family went to the church from 1972 to the time it closed.I had my children baptized there. WE buried my brother& grandmother there.The church was there to comfort my mother as she slowly slip away.The church is just a building the memories will never go away.Goodbye Transy

  • Kyle Karlin says:

    There is another church that is abandoned called St. Bonaventure a large Gothic Church closed since 1993 in the Fairhill section of Philadelphia

  • crd2 says:

    Michelle: thanks for the heads up about the Hillman Center. I think there will be something forthcoming on it.

  • Todd Milano says:

    Greetings All,

    My passion is rescuing abandoned America and putting it to good use. I would like to do so with a small portion of the remains of Transfiguration (56th & Cedar). Please reply with the location of the remains or any leads that might help me identify their resting place.

    Keep smiling,

    Todd M. toddmilano@centralpenn.edu

    • JOhnson says:

      The company that did the demo crushed and removed all the schist. Some of the exterior reliefs broke, some survived and sat around the site for awhile (I don’t know where they ended up). A big stone cross and the cornerstone with the year on it are still sitting on the site near the school.

  • JOhnson says:

    From what I understand, Boys’ Latin was originally going to keep the structure and re-use if like they did with the school, but they spent way more money than originally thought to renovate the school and they are still having problems with the building due to it’s old age… they figured out it would be much easier and cheaper to demo and build anew.. the economic collapse sealed the deal on that.

    They are WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY behind on their current construction schedule… they just finished the demo (at least 3 months late).

  • Very sad to see. Good article though. Thanks!

  • frank says:

    Everybody (including myself) laments about the loss of a beautiful church and of their past, but nobody puts any money in the basket to save a beautiful piece of art or their past. We all just point fingers at the other guy.

  • Warren says:

    This is a disgrace. I never heard of a church being torn down. I grew up around the corner from this church in the 60′s & 70′s. I have fond memories of the church bell ringing every hour, we played on the property (respectfully), and we were often greeted by nuns thoughout the neighborhood. There was a convent there. We even bought the sunday’s paper there on the bottom floor. I was shocked when I visited the area in June 2010 and saw that it was gone. The school building was still there. A beautiful edifice gone.

  • Warren says:

    Someone mentioned burying relatives here. I don’t recall there being a cemetary.

  • Joshua says:

    Did you know that Mayor Michael Nutter attended elementary school here?

  • hank says:

    The first two pastors of the parish were buried in the front lawn of the school. They were removed and re burried after the parish was sold.

  • JWilson says:

    I passed through the old neighborhood on my way home from work recently and saw the church had been demolished. Went there in the 60′s. Sad,good memories,used to be an altar boy

  • Ray Delia says:

    I went to Tranfig (we used to call it) from 1st through 8th grade. Graduated in 1957. I was a white boy (think we were called) and an altar boy and remember Fr. Kavanaugh. Sister Theresa Marie taught me piano. I remember Ms. McCarron. Sister Mirian Michael.
    I remember Fr. Flynn was so heavy they told the altar boys to kneel away from him for the prayers at the foot of the altar in case he toppled sideways. I remember Fr. Donnelly. Fr. Kavanaugh gave a party every year for the altar boys. We watched Treasure Island and got a box of hard candy…every year. He was a strict disciplinarian that we did all the rubrics correctly. I can’t remember one Sister’s name, but we called her Pontius Pilate.

    • Frank DeVitis says:

      I too am horrified that they tore down the church. I graduated in ’63. I was an altar boy from ’58 to ’62. Found the old “Altar Boys Ceremonial ” book by Fr. Kavanagh on the Internet. What memories….

    • Bill Kelly - Transy '57 says:

      Her name was Sister Rose Angela (Bradley). She taught me 4th grade (my first year at Transfiguration). The class as on the third floor, southwest corner of the school and the class was all boys. The Altar Boys Sister was Sister Marie Angela (Natoli). Sister is still with us and lives at Camilla Hall in Malvern, PA. She eventually became head of the IHM order. My wife and i had a wonderful visit with her in September, 2013. Sister Rose Angela is buried at Camilla Hall’s cemetery. You are right about Fr. Kavanagh. My brother and I have been trying to locate his book “Altar Boys Ceremonial” for some time without success.
      Regards,

  • Bob says:

    It was my family’s church & it was a beautiful church. If the bad priests were kicked out instead of being transferred around, the diocese wouldn’t have to close the inner city churches & schools due to the decline in donations/offerings. In Europe buildings are restored & not torn down. My dad & his siblings went to West Boys & Girls, I went to West Boys & Bonner. Thank the Lord that an endowment was started to save those schools. The Archdiocese should be ashamed of themselves, both for moral & financial reasons. Such a shame this church was demolished.

  • Dan walsh says:

    I went to Transylvania and graduated in 76. I and my brother were two of four white sin the entire school. I had great childhood friends and memories from the schoolandmany interesting walks home whencwechad to deal with the Sayre school kids looking to mess with the ‘catholic white boys’ as we walked home every day. I sure learned how to scrap and street smarts better than any of my suburb cousins
    Transylvania was a beautiful church
    My first crush—girl named Charmaine B in sixth grade

  • I have a website about historic US tile installations and a blog “Tiles in New York”. The tiles in the Church of the Transfiguration were made by the Cambridge-Wheatley Tile Co. of Cincinnati. I would like to add this Church to my website as a lost object of art. Would you give me permission to use two or three of your photos of the destruction of the Church? I would give you credit and link back to your website. Thank you.

  • Tom says:

    My father who will be 95 in March, born in 1918,often speaks about how beautiful this church was. I think I have pictures of him when he received his first Holy Communion on the grounds. He was raised on Pemberton St. What a shame.

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