Project reader Tom Lochhead provides some commentary on his former home parish, the excellent Visitation BVM:
1) Was originally founded as St. Cecelia's at C and Cambria Streets in 1872 where a chapel was constructed. The fourth pastor, Father Thomas Barry received permission in 1875 to move the church to its present location and rename it Our Lady of the Visitation. The corner stone was laid on Oct. 22, 1876 and the church was completed on Sept. 9, 1883. (Source: "History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884", page 1383 by Scharf and Wescott. This is available on Google Books and offers the history of all the early Philly churches by denomination.)
I am intrigued by the name change and can find no reason for it and do not know of it happening in other parishes. One of the nuns that taught me once offered a local folklore explanation which I can relate if you are interested.
2) Viso is probably more of a magnet than you think. The archdiocese had purchased a large part of real estate on the west side of Kensington Avenue between Lehigh Ave. & Huntington St. and constructed a shelter for battered women. I think the official title is Visitation Homes. You can see them on Google Maps street view.
3) I still attend the alumni mass every April -UPPER CHURCH, BABY!!! - and the architecture and beauty of the building are timeless. I am also happy that the shrine "Our Lady of the Armed Forces" survives in the lower church. This mass is followed by a reception in the school hall - another flashback!
Upper churches do indeed rule, and Visitation has one of the best around. (Although the Archdiocese claims Visitation was dedicated in 1880, not 1883. Who's counting, though?)
The curious note here is the name change. Visitation was indeed founded as St. Cecilia in 1873, but the name was changed to infinitely cooler Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1876. Why? Good question. As Tom points out, the answers are not readily available. Even the Archdiocese's surprisingly good 200th anniversary book, "Our Faith-Filled Heritage," doesn't explain the reasoning behind it.
We asked for Tom's folklore explanation, but he has yet to provide it. In the meantime, if anyone happens to have any information, feel free to send it on.
It's worth noting that, Tom's thoughts to the contrary, Visitation is not the only parish to undergo a name change early in its history. Incarnation of Our Lord, for example, was founded in 1900 as St. Justin. It wasn't until 1902 that it received the cool, unique moniker it has now.