Status: Worship site, Roman Catholic
W. Elm and Oak Sts.
Conshohocken, PA 19428
Original visit: October 4, 2009
Where Is It?
West Elm and Oak Streets, in Conshohocken.
The Project stays in the ‘burbs to tackle Conshohocken’s St. Mary, situated nicely at the base of the giant hill that is Conshy.
St. Mary initially struck me as something of a smallish Tweener Church. The exterior looks late-model, reinforced by a 1950 cornerstone date. If the pattern held, then, we were surely in for a church with not much going on in the ornamentation department.
Boy, were we wrong.
This is no late-model tweener. Instead, it’s a beautiful, almost opulent columned, cruciform Gothic structure. Turns out that St. Mary was founded as a Polish national parish. A-ha! God bless Polish architects. Even when they build late, they still do it right.
And few church builders in 1950 would have the stones to include such detailed paintwork, murals and stained glass. It’s not to the level of St. Adalbert or St. Laurentius by any means, but for a church built 50 years later, it’s very, very close, and very, very good.
Sure, there are some things that annoy the Project, like the removed altar rail and the hidden organ pipes. But all in all, this is just a really nice building.
Conshohocken has pretty much established itself as the epicenter of suburban church excellence.
How's It Doing?
Worship site, ho! As of July 2014, the declining Polish influence finally caught up to the parish and it was absorbed into neighboring St. Matthew. The building will remain in use as a worship site, of course, but it's not a good situation for St. Mary's long-term longevity. A pity, too, since it’s far nicer than most suburban fare.
Easy. As mentioned previously, Conshy sits at the nexus of numerous transportation options, almost all of which are really easy.
Oh, and St. Mary has its own lot, so parking’s a snap. Not that it really matters, since it’s a great area, but still. The Project doesn’t turn its nose up at small favors.
St. Mary’s a pretty church, but it has two of the creepiest ornaments the Project has ever seen. The first is the relief tympanum, which...simply fills me with dread. The other is the relief portrait of Jesus on the left-hand side of the choir loft, which...also fills me with a lot of dread.
The Final Word
Well worth the trip.