Delorean Time Machine: Church of the Ascention

Mr. Fox

The stretch between 602 and 614 S. Broad St. has been a site of worship for most of its retrievable history.  The earliest records, from the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, tell us that the Episcopal Church of the Ascension was constructed in 1886 and designed by architect Charles M. Burns.  The photo here below, taken from G.W. Bromley’s 1895 Philadelphia Atlas, shows that The Church of the Ascension occupied the northwest stretch on the 600 block of South Broad Street leading up to and through the turn of the century.

Church of the Ascension in 1895

Among the distinctions held by the Church during its lifespan, it served as a meeting place for The Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution as demonstrated by the 1902 performance of a memorial service for one of the organization’s founding members, notable Philadelphia attorney, James Edward Carpenter.  Philadelphia’s Department of Records provides us with a photo of the Church of Ascension in 1914.  The Department also identifies the horse-drawn carriage shown here below as a 'squeegee'. 

Church of the Ascension and an early squeegee that we wouldn’t recommend for your windshield, 1914

We can also clearly see that Dr. Hyman practiced his unique brand of medicine (whatever that was) in the attached building on the southwest corner of Broad and South.  The photo here below, also taken from the Department of Records, shows a bustling Broad Street in 1927, with the church seen on the right hand side.

Broad Street before traffic lights, 1927

By mid-century, the house of worship had transformed into the St. Mary’s School, according to Works Progress Administration’s Land Use Maps from 1942 and 1962.

St. Mary’s School, 1942

Today, the space is occupied by the Church of God and Saints of Christ, an international denomination which identifies itself as “the oldest African-American congregation in the United States that adheres to the tenets of Judaism.” Though the denomination and religious order have changed over the course of a century plus, the building remains substantially unaltered from its original design.  By contrast, the building previously occupied by Dr. Hyman’s medical practice appears to have been demolished and replaced by a low-slung structure that now houses the equally health-conscious Govinda’s Gourmet Vegetarian.

The First Tabernacle Beth El Church of God and Saints in Christ, 2013

--David Tomar