The building at 771 S. 2nd St. immediately strikes the passerby as distinct from its surroundings. In a neighborhood of attached single-family residencies, this building is unattached and set back from the street in a gated and tree-filled yard. According to Hexamer & Locher’s 1858 Philadelphia Atlas, the building in question was occupied by the First Baptist Church.
The Preservation Alliance lists both the date and architect of the building as unknown, though Mookieland estimates the former to be around 1809. Apparently, according to the image here below, taken from G.M. Hopkins’ 1875 Philadelphia Atlas, the church had somehow been demoted to the Third Baptist Church.
By the turn of the century, the changing ethnic makeup of the neighborhood would be evidenced by the transition at this property. The Queen Village neighborhood attracted a rapidly growing population of immigrant newcomers. The Eastern European Jewish community, in particular, swelled in the areas orbiting South Street and Fabric Row. According to The Jewish Community of South Philadelphia, a group of Hasidic Jews from the Ukraine transformed the Third Baptist Church into the Neziner Synagogue in 1889. The synagogue would become a mainstay in the neighborhood for nearly a century. The Philadelphia Department of Records photo here below shows the building in 1957, quiet but in use.
Though the synagogue had been hundreds of families strong in its early 20th Century heyday, the congregation had evaporated to just a few dozen as the century neared an end. According to a recent speech by Representative Chaka Fattah, the Neziner congregation merged with Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel at 18th & Spruce in 1984, with many of its artifacts being absorbed into what is now called the Neziner Chapel. By 1985, the same structure originally built to house the First Baptist Church more than 200 years ago would be converted into the residential units making up the Neziner Court Condominiums.