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After a bitter, half-decade battle pitting preservationists against developers and catching community members in between, the Philadelphia Historical Commission last week voted to allow the current property owner to demolish the twin steeples of of Fishtown’s St. Laurentius Roman Catholic Church.
As the end approaches for the iconic spires, Google Master Photographer Mark Henninger took a drone up to capture their unique appearance.
Soaring 150 feet above the corner of Berks and Memphis, a few blocks east of Frankford Avenue, the copper patina peaks are a landmark of the neighborhood, presiding over the tangle of nearby streets filled with low-rise rowhomes.
Erected between 1882 and 1885 as part of a design by local architect Ediwn Forrest Durang, the brownstone towers are crumbling. Last year, large stones twice fell onto the sidewalk below.
The church, considered the oldest Polish Catholic church in the city, was in 2013 suppressed as an independent parish by the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Structural instability led to the building’s permanent closure in 2014. It was placed on the city’s historic register in 2015.
A subsequent plan to convert the building into apartments was shot down by the neighborhood, and the church has sat vacant and disintegrating ever since.
Frustrated by the ongoing stasis, the previous owner, developer Leo Voloshin, in January transferred his bill of sale to Humberto Fernandini, who reportedly paid $50,000 for the property. The new developer originally said he wanted to save the structure, but in July said it was dangerously unstable and again petitioned for permission to demolish.
The city board’s latest decision came with a demand by the commissioners that part of the facade be saved. But the spires look destined to come down.