From Church to Gas Station, At Least Murals Preserve the Memory

Nobody likes a gas station in the city. Low-slung and stinky, they're a necessary evil in our ever-more-car-dependent society. If you're in Center City, and you can't get to Jersey for your gasoline needs, you're probably visiting one of the handful of gas stations scattered around our downtown cityscape. One gas station, on the northwest corner of 22nd & Walnut, has two murals that both pretty up the location and refer to the corner's history.

According to a plaque on the site, the Saint James Protestant Episcopal Church stood on this corner for eighty years. The structure was built in 1870, renovated to include a tower by 1911, and demolished in 1946. The structure was striking example of church architecture on this high-profile corner. An elaborate building on Walnut Street made the corner all the more impressive.

Saint James Protestant Episcopal Church in 1933

Looking west on Walnut Street. Note the gorgeous building next door to the church which is also lost.

In 1995, Sunoco commissioned two murals, hiring artist Michael Webb and Susan Maxman Architects for the job. On 22nd Street, faux-windows have been painted on the adjacent property, and a shadow is cast by the missing church. On Walnut Street, more contemporary windows show an illustration of the missing church on a sunny day.

22nd Street mural shows a shadow of the church

Walnut Street mural

Yeah, there's still a gas station here. And sure, we wish that the old and beautiful church was still standing here in its place. But all things considered, this gas station does a nice job remembering its site's history, in spite of itself. Oh, and the prices are usually pretty reasonable too.