Time Warp: St. Bonaventure

There is nothing--and I mean NOTHING--that the Project loves more than vintage photography. Especially when it's of churches that were closed or demolished before we came along.

You can imagine our extreme joy at receiving the following note from Project reader Patrick Kidd:

I've read your page and blog over the last year and have enjoyed the posts. I noticed tonight that there had been some recent posts about St. Bonaventure's in Fairhill. I'm attaching some .jpegs of photos of the church interior and scenes from the school.

Most date to the 1920s-40s and come from parish anniversary booklets now in the Archdiocesan Historical Center; the school pics are from the Sisters of Saint Francis, who used to run the parish school. I'm also attaching a brief history of the parish and the block on which it sits. I did this as part of a Historic Preservation Studio at the University of Pennsylvania and thought some of the readers might enjoy it.

Never-before-seen (to us, anyway) vintage photography of the late, great St. Bonaventure? Yes. Yes! YES!

See below (click for larger):


































Oh my. :drool:

Really great and invaluable stuff. The church, pretty much, is what the Project thought it would be. A gothic, columned and cruciform masterpiece; not huge, but expertly crafted and lovingly ornamented. A black-and-white photo doesn't tell the whole story, but I'm in no position to be greedy. These images are already among our most treasured.

The bonus is the school images, which are obviously (and in some cases ridiculously) staged. Still, they're incredible period artifacts.

Mr. Kidd also provided a portion of a document titled "A Preservation Plan for Fairhill: History of a Fairhill Block," which provides a very comprehensive overview of the founding of the parish and the planning of construction of the church and other parochial buildings. I've provided a download link below.

A Preservation Plan for Fairhill: History of a Fairhill Block (PDF)

The sad thing about reading a history like this is that it reminds you just how much effort went into this parish and this church. The parishioners and the pastor, Father Hammeke, poured their blood, sweat, tears, hearts and souls into creating this place; just read about Hammeke's painstaking efforts to fill out the church's ornamentation over a period of many years.

In better and more caring hands, these creations would have stood forever as a testament to their lives and their hard work. Instead, the ruined husk of Bonaventure is a grim reminder that everything they strove for has been cast aside and forgotten.

I'll give the last word to the good Father:

When I landed for the second time...I decided to live and die in America, and in that parish of St. Bonaventura, where there are so many good people.


Sorry your successors decided those people weren't good enough, Padre.