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St. Laurentius

Status: Closed, Roman Catholic

Founded: 1882
Construction: 1885
Closed: 2013 / 2014

Memphis & E. Berks Street
Philadelphia, PA 19125

Original visit: December 9, 2007
Subsequent visits: June 2013 

Where Is It?

All aboard for Fishtown! Memphis and E. Berks Streets, more specifically.

The Skinny

St. Laurentius is the second Polish parish we’ve visited, the first being the awesome St. Adalbert. St. Laurentius is actually the elder parish. With an 1882 founding date and an 1885 construction date, it’s the oldest Polish Catholic church in Philadelphia. Or so say the nifty banners they proudly display on area lampposts.

Age notwithstanding, the two churches are pretty close in quality. Like most Polish churches, St. Laurentius is ridiculously ornamented, with a columned, non-cruciform Gothic design that's beautifully decorated with a pink and blue color scheme and multicolored marble. And where Adalbert settled for vague Eastern-European color swirls on the ceiling, St. Laurentius goes all-out with detailed, extensive murals. It even has a vaguely similar gold and woodwork monstrosity of an altar.

St. Laurentius is a little smaller, and the windows aren't quite as detailed its Polish cousin. But that's kind of like nitpicking. And if you like wrath-of-God style construction, this is your place, as St. Laurentius eschews Adalbert's stately white stone and airy, light interior for brownstone and a dimmer, more medieval feel.

This is a really great experience.

What Happened?

Parochial politics, coupled with some untimely structural problems.

St. Laurentius fought hard to keep their parish school open in 2012, dashing the AD's hope for a regional school at St. Peter the Apostle. And so, the popular theory goes, the angry, petty bureaucrats shut down the parish itself a year later in retribution. 

As if that wasn't bad enough, St. Laurentius' new life as a worship site was cut short in the spring of 2014, when structural problems brought on by age, weather, etc. forced a very sudden, very public closure. Indeed, there's not even very much agreement over the extent of the damage, the price of repair, and whether closure was even necessary, which adds extra fuel to an already-potent fire. 

Regardless, the populace is trying to rally around this building and raise the funds needed to bring it back to life, but that's a tall order even for a group as passionate as this one. 

A real cluster@%#$, even by the AD's low standards.

Travel Tidbits

Oh, if only all of our visits were this easy. Seriously, if the Project could just travel to Fishtown and Port Richmond all the time, I’d be a happy man. Laurentius is within spitting distance of I-95 and Girard Avenue, making travel easy. Well, not during rush hour, but you shouldn’t need to go there then.

Street parking again, but the area is good enough that you shouldn’t fear.

Interesting Note

Laurentius' foyer is unique because it's not on the same level with the church. That is, after walking in, you need to take another set of steps to go up into the church. The handicapped and the elderly probably don't much care for it, but I can't help but like the extra sense of grandeur.

Image Gallery

Images taken June 2013. Click to enlarge!

The Final Word

Highly recommended.