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Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Construction for the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was started in May of 1848 and it was dedicated in November of the following year, with a third of the funds said to have been donated by non-Catholics who were happy to have it in the area. With majestic Gothic architecture and twin copper spires soaring fifteen stories above the ground, the Church of the Assumption is an iconic building and a central part of an area that has already lost much of its heritage. It was designed by Patrick Charles Keely, one of the most prolific and respected ecclesiastical church architects in America's history, and is currently the oldest surviving structure he created. St. John Neumann helped consecrate the church and St. Katharine Drexel was baptized there, so it is also of no small historical significance to the Catholic church.

The church was closed in the late 1990s with several others. At that point the AIDS/HIV charity Siloam was renting the convent and rectory, and they were offered the option to purchase all of the buildings or to move when new owners were found. They purchased the lot and made every effort to acquire permission to demolish it, despite the outcry from the community. Activists and preservation groups had it designated as an historic landmark. It seemed that Assumption's fate was sealed in 2010 and that Siloam had succeeded in arguing the case that they were financially unable to care for the building and its continued existence threatened their solvency.

The church was sold to developer John Wei, who was given the same hardship waiver for demolition despite the fact that he could afford to buy the church. Ignoring an influx of letters and emails begging them to save it, the Historical Commission not only upheld the decision despite having a clear precedent to save the building, but they are now trying to make it easier for future developers to plead financial hardship.

As for Assumption, it still exists, but likely not for very long.

Photographs and text by Matthew Christopher. For more images click the thumbnails below.
Assumption Historical Photos portfolio