Status: Active, Roman Catholic
2nd & Jefferson Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19122
Original visit: August 15, 2007
Subsequent visits: April 2014
Where Is It?
2nd & Jefferson Streets, in Kensington!
The Project returns to familiar waters to check out Kensington's St. Michael. Lot of history, here, folks. Founded in 1831, St. Michael is the first parish to be founded outside the Philadelphia's original borders. It was also, along with several other churches, burned to the ground in the 1844 Nativist riots.
While bad, the burning gave way to the current church, which isn't too shabby. It was also a driving force behind the 1854 Act of Consolidation, where Philadelphia absorbed every neighboring municipality in sight.
(Ok, that last one may be kind of bad, depending on who you ask.)
But back to the church itself, which is unique because, from the outside, it looks almost nothing like a church. The two spires are something of a giveaway, but the remainder of a building isn’t something you’d normally associate with religious architecture. A good example of the St. Vincent de Paul effect, if ever there was one.
Actually, St. Michael actually shares a lot in common with St. Vincent, namely, an Italian-Renaissance design. What separates Michael, however, is that the decor is much more opulent and detailed, especially the molding. Couple that with a nifty pink and white color scheme, and BANG! You have something magical. I also have to acknowledge the cleaving balcony, which is a staple of this older style of church construction. See St. Augustine, Old St. Mary's, Old St. Joseph and St. Peter's Church, for example.
Sure, the church isn’t very large, but you'll be hard-pressed to find one that's more classically beautiful. Old vs. Older Churches? Nah, not here.
How's It Doing?
Look, there's no doubt that the revitalization going on North of Girard, in Fishtown and fringe parts of Kensington, spells great things for the church long term.
The problem is the here and now, where the average attendance has dipped under 200. Yet, the church is in pretty good shape and even acquired its own worship site (the former Immaculate Conception at Front & Allen streets), so who the @^#%$ really knows.
I'd say that, coupled with the history should be enough. Of course, we're also dealing with the Archdiocese, for whom nothing is ever really enough.
So, yeah, it's not easily accessible by a lot of roads. No matter how you slice it, you're going to have to brave either Broad Street, Girard Avenue and / or 2nd Street, and, well — good luck with that.
The neighborhood is still rough in parts, but is improving and shouldn't be too much of a hindrance.
St. Michael offers a rarely seen bilingual mass. Essentially, it’s a mass that does various parts in one language, other parts in the other, with some parts done in both. It’s unwieldy as hell, but it works better than you might think.
Images taken April 2014. Click to enlarge.
The Final Word
Historic and classically beautiful. What are you waiting for?