On the way home from a warm cup of Pho late Monday afternoon, we came upon yet another church with a ‘for sale’ sign. This time, it’s the ornate stone Ruffin Nichols Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church and school on 11th Street between Mt. Vernon and Wallace Streets, listed for $899,900. We could not help but wish we had the money ourselves, so we could move into its chess-like tower and keep an eye on Philadelphia. But alas, we were too late. Upon calling the realtor, Lawrence Rust, we found the property is currently under contract, though future plans for the site are unclear.

Up 11th St.

Looking west on Mt. Vernon St.

The sale is a two-building package that includes both the church and the school. While it seems remote, we suppose it’s possible that the developer will attempt to restore the 15K sqft school that includes ten classrooms, a kitchen area, and large area with a basketball court and a stage with theater dressing rooms, and the 9K sqft church, with its detailed arched wood trusse and pipe organ… but we’re not optimistic.

With tons of new construction in all directions, including the construction of five new homes right across the street, some on Lemon Street, others on Wallace, and several more on 12th St., we can only speculate the church will be taken down in favor of row homes and another old structure with handsome architecture and a unique interior will be lost.

According to Rust, the property, listed last March, was a tough sale. Both demolition and restoration costs are substantial, he said. According to a congregation member we chanced upon on the street who wished to remain nameless, the congregants and its pastor left the church in January because of the poor condition of the building.

When you also consider the development Bart Blatstein will bring to the former Inquirer Building at 400 N. Broad, and the State Office Building at Broad and Spring Garden just blocks away, this property becomes an important location in the equation of the continued development of the neighborhood. We’ll be watching for more info and will update y’all as it becomes available.

–Lou Mancinelli