Monday, July 25, 2011

Old-ass Building of the Week-- July 25th

Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church

19 South 10th Street

Strictly Strickland.
                     You got to love a church that looks like the gateway to Hades. This thing is pretty cool. The facade is an embattled stone wall with two towers on it. It looks like there should be dudes shooting arrows down at you from the top. The coolest thing about this building is that it's managed to survive with the same name and function intact since 1823.
                     That doesn't necessarily mean that the building was built in 1823, though. People don't realize that this building is much older than that. The structure was first built, without that cool-ass facade, as the Saint Thomas's Methodist Congregation. The Episcopal Church purchased the building in 1822 and went up to Kick-ass SuperCommander William Strickland and said, "We just bought this fucked up old church building at the edge of town and it sucks. Design a rebuild of this thing that'll fuck everyone's shit up for generations.".
                      Strickland was like, "Motherfuckers, you're in for a treat. I'm gonna revive the fuck out of some Gothic for this bitch!". Ten months later, this Gateway to the Crotch Kiss Universe was built. It was Proto-Gothic Revival and helped usher in the Gothic Revival movement in the United States, even though Strickland preferred Greek Revival. That's how much of a gangster Strickland was. He could design a building that's not even his usual style and it can start a nation-wide movement. The church became a landmark as soon as it was built. The 86 foot tall octagonal towers were briefly some of the tallest structures on the neighborhood skyline.
The tops of the towers were embattled at one point. Bring that shit back!
One demolition-proof motherfucker in its prime.
                       Fifty years later the building was falling apart and William Strickland was already trapped in his crypt at the Tennessee State Capitol Building. The building needed an upgrade and it was the 1878. Who would you get if you needed an architect in that time period? Grandmaster Badass Motherfucker Frank Furness, that's who.  He broke down the back wall and extended the church, adding a transept.
                       Furness also had a gift for interior design. Along with his renovation he did up the interior with cool-ass Furnessian patterns and shit. He was like, "Oh, I can't change your precious-ass Strickland facade? I'll put my crazy-ass details on the inside!"

Furness lit up the furnace under his ass for this one.
                        There's not much else to say. The church remained in place looking relatively the same for decades and decades up until the present. To put it all into perspective, think of the view across the street from this structure. It went from this:

Wooden houses
                          to this:

Franklin Market built in place of those wooden houses.
                      to this:

Mercantile Library moved into the Franklin Market. 
                       to this:

I'd rather have the wooden houses.
                      ...all while the Saint Stephens Episcopal Church looked the same. It's the fucking Connor MacLeod of this block, which is saying something considering most of the other buildings on this street are old as fuck.
                      Oh yeah, then there's this thing:

If anyone ever asks you what bullshit looks like, it's this.
                   It's nonsense. There's like 9 other spots that also make the same claim. Sorry brah!


  1. I am a writer with a Philadelphia paper, and we're looking for some new stories to cover for our Arts section. I've been transfixed by your blog. As an student of art (and architectural) history, and a native to the Philadelphia area, I find it fascinating, hilarious and nostalgic. I'd love to do a small profile on you and the blog itself for an upcoming issue. Please get back to me if you are interested in the story. Thanks a lot, and enjoy the rest of your day!

  2. Sounds cool. Email me at

  3. Yeah, I just want to second the opinion. This blog rocks!

  4. Google "Franklin's Philadelphia Experiment" for the (my) account (on scribd) re where Franklin flew his kite.