Transfiguration of Our Lord
Status: Demolished, Former Roman Catholic
56th & Cedar Avenues
Philadelphia, PA 19143
Original visit: February 20, 2008
Where Was It?
Cobbs Creek! More specifically, 56th & Cedar Avenues.
Transfiguration was one of the parishes that was consolidated into the new St. Cyprian a few blocks down on Cobbs Creek Parkway. The other parish was St. Carthage, whose building Cyprian now occupies. Transfiguration closed in 2000, and suffered through the Long Goodbye for nearly a decade before succumbing to The End in late 2009.
It's a terrible shame, because Transfiguration (or Transy, for short) was a wonderful pieces of church architecture.
Tweener Churches: We haven’t seen many of these, mostly because most late-model churches tend to be awful. But when done right, the results are magical. Witness St. Martin of Tours and Olney’s St. Helena.
That description fit Transfiguration to a T, although it wasn't a tweener in the traditional sense. The elaborate sculptures on the building’s face and tympanums, rounded shrines along the sides, delicate semicircular front staircase, and intricate scriptwork over the doors reveal that this church wasn't just clean lines and angles. And in case you still weren't sure, the interior tilework, the likes of which has not been seen elsewhere in the city, hammered that home.
Still, its profile and design were so strikingly similar to the aforementioned Martin and Helena that it was nearly impossible not to put them in the same class. Sure, it wasn't quite as enormous as those two, and its exterior was a little more ornate, but they could all be siblings. Transfiguration even has lower church doors in the front of the building, like Martin of Tours, which is something you really don’t see very often.
A real loss.
Like all lost churches, Transfiguration is a victim of a changing and declining populace. The large families that used to fill the surrounding rowhomes moved away, and the new families were smaller and poorer. Transfiguration limped along until the 2000 merger with Carthage put an end to its misery.
Of course, the Project can’t help but scream that the Archdiocese chose to preserve Carthage’s building while sentencing Transfiguration to The Long Goodbye. Nothing against Carthage, but their building is really underwhelming. Transfiguration, on the other hand, was much more worthy.
Your move, Carthage / Cyprian.
Sure, Transfiguration was a much larger and more difficult building to maintain. But this was a building that needed to be saved, whether the Archdiocese liked it or not, and by giving it the heave-ho they royally screwed the proverbial pooch. Very disappointing.
Even more disappointing is its ultimate fate in 2009, when the Boys' Latin of Philadelphia Charter School, the property's current owners, hastily demolished it.
Sure, the speed of it was a little suspicious, but hey, they needed the property clear to — wait, they still haven't built anything there?
Nothing to see here. Move along.
Give me a minute.
The Final Word