St. Dominic

Status: Active, Roman Catholic

Founded: 1849

8504 Frankford Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19136

Visit its website

Original visit: December 2, 2007

Where Is It?

Whooo, back to the Great Northeast! This time, the 8500 block of Frankford Avenue in Holmesburg.

The Skinny

For as large and diverse an area as the Northeast is, the area isn't really known for awesome, crazy old architecture. Most of that is due to the era in which it was settled and developed, mostly the post-World War II era, when building styles were moving away from the classical notions the Project holds so dear. It’s a wonder the Northeast was able to give us anything at all.

St. Dominic predates all that nasty business, though. Its 1849 founding date establishes it not just as the Northeast's oldest parish, but as one of the oldest parishes we’ve seen so far. It also provides hope that maybe Martin of Tours isn’t the only significant church in the area.

In some ways Dominic delivers on the promise. It boasts a beautifully creepy, Gothic brown stone exterior, large rose window, and some very cool stone sculpting on the door frames and arches.

But it also falls victim to the dreaded St. Cyprian Effect, as in the interior isn’t quite as magnificent as you’d think. The stained glass is lovely, bolstered by the presence of, count ‘em, three rose windows, and any church that uses its organ gets serious props in my book.

The problem is that it’s neither big enough nor ornate enough to really stand out. The interior roof design is really reminiscent of Holy Name of Jesus, where the roof starts of low at the sides and slants upward toward the middle, where it opens up into a long, high, narrow corridor.

It’s not a bad design, but it means that most of the roof is low-set, which lessens the size impact. Ornamentally, its white and gold color scheme has some nice touches, and we get the first appearance of wood paneling since St. Francis of Assisi, but that’s about all.

In the end, it’s too plain to really excel. Good, not great.

How's It Doing?

Well enough. The Northeast has had its share of problems and changes lately, but this section of Holmesburg, far up Frankford Avenue, looks to still be far more positive than negative. Hopefully it stays that way.

The parish's registered population is holding mostly steady at just under 7,000, which is good. The average attendance has declined by a quarter in the past five year, however, which is bad.

Sttill, the numbers are good enough that the parish should be fine for the foreseeable future.

Travel Tidbits

The Far Northeast is almost uniformly respectable, so you should encounter no problems.

The church has a central location on Frankford Avenue, making it easily accessible by any number of thoroughfares.

Interesting Note

Dominic has its own graveyard. It’s not as ridiculously scary as the one at St. John the Baptist, but it’s bigger, making it seem as if this parish is awash in a sea of dead people.

One priest mentioned that they were opening up new plots — prime real estate, he said — to help raise funds.

Insert your own joke.

Image Gallery

The Final Word

The "Mother Church of the Northeast" isn't quite the best the area has to offer, but you could do far worse.