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St. Bonaventure Roman Catholic Church


St. Bonaventure Roman Catholic Church in the Fairhill neighborhood of Philadelphia was designed in 1894 by Edwin Forrest Durang, who built over 100 ecclesiastical structures in a typically Roman Baroque style. Fairhill’s large population of German Catholic immigrants had been drawn there by the prospect of work at the myriad of industries in the area, which included iron foundries, soap and textile factories, lumber and coal yards, and a coffin factory among others. Some immigrants were also fleeing the persecution of Catholics in Germany at the time. A University of Pennsylvania report stated that one reason for the foundation of St. Bonaventura parish was that a neighborhood inhabitant “had tired of traveling to the German parish of St. Boniface on Norris Square, twelve blocks to the east of his home.”

St. Bonaventure was closed in 1993, along with many other north Philadelphia churches in lower-income neighborhoods. It was later sold to the New Life Evangelistic Church, who left it vacant for years with what appeared to be very little effort to maintain the building. During this period the copper roof was partially stripped and thieves stole windows, water pipes, and other items. In 2013 the Department of Licensing and Inspections (L&I) deemed the steeple in imminent danger of collapse after visiting it following complaints about slate shingles falling from the roof during Hurricane Sandy. While Rev. Carswell Jackson was quoted an estimated $77,000 to stabilize the steeple, L&I opted instead to spend approximately $1 million of taxpayer money to tear down what was widely considered the neighborhood’s most significant remaining architectural feature.

A big thank you to Philadelphia Salvage for making this possible. If you'd like to learn more about this location, it is a featured chapter in the new Abandoned America book Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences. Signed copies are available through my website, or you can find (unsigned) copies available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online booksellers across the globe.Photographs and text by Matthew Christopher. For more photographs click on the thumbnails below.