Despite the Project's affinity for architecture, I don't really delve into issues of who actually builds these churches. That's primarily because, unlike the architects who designed them, the builders tend to remain anonymous and difficult to track. And, also, because it's not usually relevant to our mission.
But that's the question posed to the Project from reader Ed Gavin. He's curious as to the identity of the builders of the late, lamented St. Stephen at Broad and Butler Streets in Nicetown. (Now Caveat Emptor'ed into the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.)
About a year and a half ago I referred you to some photographs of Saint Stephen's main altar posted on www.saintstephensalumni.com. Now I'm trying to find out if there's any record of who built the church - general contractor or Amish barnraisers or whatever. I know that it was designed by WIllis G. Hale, and that the cornerstone of the lower church was blessed in 1884. Have you ever come across any records of your churches that may have included what firm built the structure? Some of my old Saint Stephen's fellow graduates say that their grandfathers told them that they had "built that church," but it's not clear the extent to which these really old guys were involved. And, too, it just might be the beer talking! Any ideas?
Probably beer, although you never know. Port Richmond's Nativity BVM is the only other church I've come across that claims to be built by parishioners. I took them at their word, although once again it's something that's not easily proven or disproven, outside of a visit to the Philadelphia Archdiocese Historical Research Center (PAHRC) at St. Charles Seminary.
Are any of you familiar enough with the construction of St. Stephen to offer Ed an answer? Drop the Project a line.