By KYW community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Dozens of members of Philadelphia’s first Polish Catholic parish, whose decaying Fishtown church has been slated for demolition by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, were celebrating today after clearing one of the hurdles necessary to designate their church an historic landmark.
The Committee to Save St. Laurentius Church has spent 14 months working to save what they call the “mother church” of Philadelphia’s Polish community, its 150-foot spires rising over the neighborhood around Berks and East Memphis Streets.
Today, the Committee on Historic Designation of the Philadelphia Historical Commission (photo below) voted unanimously — following testimony from scientists, historians, Polish and city officials, engineers, and parishioners — to recommend to the full commission that St. Laurentius be designated a historic place.
Attorney Michael Phillips, who represents Holy Name Church, which now owns St. Laurentius, acknowledges the nostalgic and historic nature of the church but says there’s no money to fix it.
“The property and the building is unsafe,” he said today.
But parishioners believe that stated danger is overblown and are determined to save the church building. They are appealing to the Vatican, and say they refuse to give up.
“We are passionate because we are the caretakers of the legacy of the people who built this church,” says attorney AJ Thompson, who represents the group trying to save it.
The Philadelphia Historical Commission will decide St. Laurentius’ fate in July.