Demolition of Varick Memorial AME Zion Church at 19th and Catherine

The demolition of the Varick Memorial AME Zion Church has been ongoing for the past several months and has been well covered in this photo stream [] and here: [].

Designed by Hazelhurst and Huckel, a firm with expertise in country houses and churches, the Fourth Reformed Unitarian Church was constructed in 1889. The once sacred space was worthy enough to deserve inclusion in a photographic survey of all Presbyterian churches in the city in a volume entitled: The Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, A Camera and Pen Sketch of Each Presbyterian Church and Institution in the City. eds. White, William P., and William H. Scott, Philadelphia: Allen Lane & Scott, 1895). If you can get your hands on this book, take a look at page 226 where the structure is featured.

At what point the Fourth Reformed Unitarian Church became the Varick Memorial AME Zion Church is unclear though the church undoubtedly served the needs of the black population of the old 7th ward. What happened to this congregation (I do remember there being a notice tacked on the door of the church indicating a move) is unclear though the L&I notice indicated severe structural problems. Named for the first Bishop of the the AME Zion Church, A. James Varick, the church has effectively been effaced from the landscape of Philadelphia, to be replaced by condos. Below is a picture of the Varick Memorial AME Zion Church in relatively happier days, in Spring 2007.









8 thoughts on “Demolition of Varick Memorial AME Zion Church at 19th and Catherine

  1. tragic. trading a church for condos….

    I wish I could understand the desire to live out one’s days in a large box like complex. it seems so sterile….

    love the blog.

    1. The former Saint Agatha’s Church at 38th & Spring Garden is now an apartment building…but they didn’t tear the church, school, rectory and convent down to build those apartments. This is a disgrace.

  2. As a member of the AMEZ church I can honestly say, I hope there was good reason & a plan for a strategic build associated with selling out!

  3. As a member of the church Varick Memorial Temple AME Zion church and growing up in that church as seen in the pics… its hard… but trust the church was NOT traded for condos… Churches need to be upkept and upheld… which all require money to maintain… right??? Varick was an old church and even as a child I can remember seeing many areas that needed to be repaired… It was a church of families… yet of few ppl… ppl that couldnt afford the upkeep the large structure… truthfully said… but we are keeping the memories we have of Varick alive as evidenced by all of our young ppl that are still in the AME Zion connection going on to become preachers, great orators, professionals, and most importantly saved young ppl.. kingdom building… it definitely hurts to see my church gone… but that was just a building… God is still there, here, and everywhere… the building may be gone… but the history there still remains… and our memories also… Got IT??? LOL

  4. Yes, it is sad and a testament to change.

    Though we would love to see this beautiful edifice saved, built by Philadelphia’s best craftsmen of the day, we carefully dismantled the workmanship of years gone by for posterity.

  5. As the son of a former pastor at Varick, I am saddened by the dimise of a once beautiful and powerful institution of faith. Thought the building may no longer exist, the love of the Verick family will echo through the hearts, minds, and lives of all those who found salvation in Gods house.

  6. A small piece of Varick Memorial will survive and be put to good use only 15 or so blocks away. I just bought the old pipe organ face from the church to use as the back bar at Lucky Old Souls, the restaurant/jazz club I’m opening at 1713 McKean St. I hope some former Varick Memorial congregants will come visit when we open…

  7. @Shane – Got it and love it! That is a powerful message for the mainline church. As we merge and plant we have to be reminded that it is the congregants that comprise the church, not the brick and mortar.

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