Mailbag 12

More from the mailbag: you doing?

Thank you so much for the great site! I'm born and raised Philadelphian and catholic. I love old churches and I'm so glad that I found your site. I have always said that the city (or someone else?) should have tours that take you to the churches of North Philly, West Philly, etc. because they contain some of the most beautiful architecture in Philadelphia and the area. You have done the next best thing. Bravo!

I must tell you that some people might take umbrage (if you haven't heard it already) that you stated that St. Martin de Porres/St. Columba parish is located in Strawberry Mansion. According to my mother who attended St. Columba's and then Hallahan, she would tell you that she grew up in Swampoodle, not Mansion. The parish that was in Strawberry Mansion was Corpus Christi. By any chance, do you have St. Mary the Eternal on your list of churches? That was the Italian parish of the neighborhood and it was located somewhere around 22nd and Clearfield.

I thank you very much for the wonderful photos of St. Martin/St. Columba church. I have heard about that church and the neighborhood all my life. When my grandmother would cross Judson St, she would look down the street at the church, bless herself, then continue to cross the street. She did it for years- lol.
Keep up the good work and I look forward to your next installment. It is wonderful.

Take care, Melissa Nevin

Who else but a Philadelphian would greet the Project with a "Yo!"? Thank you for the kind words. You've summed up why the Project does what it does--church architecture is usually the best around, because nothing used to inspire artistic achievement like the great glory of God. That is, before costs rose, tastes changed and spiritual builders pretty much stuck their heads up their you-know-what.

Rest assured, Melissa, the Swampoodle debate is something that the Project hears over and over. I initially addressed it here, but let me be more concrete this time around.

Other people can take umbrage all they like, but the fact is that the name Swampoodle died out along with the neighborhood's reputation, and the area is now considered Strawberry Mansion. If anybody doesn't like it, take it out on the Planning Commission, not me. Of course, the people most likely to be offended by this are older folks, and let's face it, they're going to be crotchety about something, regardless of what I do.

(Corpus Christi, for its part, is now considered part of Allegheny West. But let's not go there--that's another geographical landmine that people love to argue about.)

As for St. Mary of the Eternal, the parish closed in 1976, making it one of the first victims of the North Philadelphia Swath of Destruction. If you die out 17 years before the Year of Hell, you know it's bad. A map survey of the area reveals nothing that looks remotely like a church, so it was probably demolished sometime over the past 30 years. Interestingly, though, the school building is still standing. And, judging from the last time I was over in the neighborhood, it's still in use.