By guest author Kimiko Doherty, Manager of Community Development, Archdiocese of Philadelphia
The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual This Place Matters national competition is underway this month. Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) was the only site in the City of Philadelphia included in the list of 100 and must now garner the most online votes during the month-long voting period (June 1- June 30). The site with the most on-line votes wins $25,000; second and third place are awarded monetary awards as well. Visitation consistently has been in the top 10 sites throughout the competition – every vote helps!
Every entrant in the This Place Matters is worthy of a vote. There are theaters, homes, band shells and battlefields on this year’s list that reflect architectural and cultural diversity worthy of recognition. There are places of nostalgia and where people can reminisce about bygone days; there are other places that enrich the lives of those who live in that community.
What sets Visitation’s apart and unique in this competition is the fact that few would ever come to visit Kensington while on vacation, and many who pass through these doors struggle with daily life that the buildings are far from the forefront of their concerns. Visitation exemplifies what many urban churches throughout our area represent – that their physical presence and services they provide are critical to neighborhood preservation. Visitation stands as a visible sign of confidence, investment, and faith in an area of our city often dismissed as a hopeless and neglected. There is no missing the twin spires of Visitation Church as you drive down Lehigh Avenue in Kensington!
Visitation parish was founded in 1872 in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. At the time of the parish’s founding, the Kensington area was bustling with industry and immigrants from Germany and Ireland, helping the City of Philadelphia earn the name, “Workshop of the World.” The parish was the center of community life (which was typical of many urban churches) – parents sent their children to school at Visitation; young adults participated in sports and social events; mothers and fathers participated in social and spiritual clubs; and everyone in the neighborhood went to Mass on Sunday.
Over the course of parish’s 137 years, Visitation adapted to the physical and social changes that occurred in the surrounding neighborhood. The buildings – the church, school, rectory and convent – were all built before the Market-Frankford Elevated Line. The monumental stairs in front of the church were added at the turn of the 20th century when Lehigh Avenue was excavated to accommodate the EL. Many of the surrounding businesses evolved or closed overtime. One of the more famous businesses – the Starlight Ballroom – was adapted and renovated in 2003 and the former ballroom is now the gym of the parish community center. Today community life continues to orbit around Visitation with their many programs and services and serve a diverse population of Latinos, Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian communities.
Vote for Visitation in the This Place Matters competition by clicking here: http://www.preservationnation.org/take-action/this-place-matters/community-challenge/places/visitation-bvm-parish.html
Mayor Nutter channeled Bon Jovi to sing the praises of historic preservation at the recent ribbon-cutting for the Presser Senior Apartments, a 2011 Preservation Achievement Award recipient: “Given the incredible history of this city, you have to pay attention to preservation,” he said. “You have to hold on to what you have.”
Accident? The former Presser Home for Retired Music Teachers and the adjacent Nugent Home were both saved from demolition by concerned neighbors in 2005. Presser is the first to be rehabilitated into senior housing, and with 200 people on a waiting list for the 45-unit building, the Nugent Home shouldn’t be far behind. So yes, Mr. Nutter, we’re half way there.
Read more about the ribbon-cutting from NewsWorks HERE.
Read more about the Alliance’s Preservation Achievement Awards HERE.
From our friends at the Center for Architecture:
“Building Philadelphia: Architecture, History & Politics” is the definitive course on the development of Philadelphia and its architecture. This engaging 10-part lecture series is taught by a selection of architects, urban planners, art historians and social historians from local universities and architecture firms. Topics covered include William Penn’s original plan, Archaeology & Preservation in Philadelphia, major urban planning projects such as the Benjamin Franklin Parkway & Society Hill, Skyscrapers, Modernism in Philadelphia, and the future of development in the city.
Ten Tuesday evenings, March 1 through May 3, 2011
6 to 8 p.m., Center for Architecture, 1218 Arch Street
Click Here to register
Full Series: $250 General Public, $200 Members, $100 Students / AIA Associates
Lectures: $30 General Public, $25 Members, $15 Students / AIA Associates
MARCH 01 – The First 100 Years: from 1682 – 1782
Paula Spilner, PhD, Drexel University
MARCH 08 – Penn’s Plan and the Founding of the City
John Andrew Gallery, Executive Director
Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia
MARCH 15 – Philadelphia Railroads
Joel Spivak, author of Philadelphia Railroads
MARCH 22 – The Victorian City
Jeffrey Cohen, PhD, Bryn Mawr College
MARCH 29 – Going on Stilts: The Tall Building in 19th c. Philadelphia
Paula Spilner, PhD, Drexel University
APRIL 05 – Immigration to the City
Caroline Golab, PhD, Thomas Jefferson University
APRIL 12 – The Hidden City: Archaeology of Philadelphia
Rebecca Yamin, PhD, John Milner Associates, Inc.
APRIL 19 – Planning the Modern City: The Parkway and Society Hill
David Brownlee, PhD, University of Pennsylvania
APRIL 26 – Misfits and Heroes: Modernism in the Delaware Valley
William Whitaker, Curator, Architectural Archives,
University of Pennsylvania
MAY 03 – Ed Bacon and the Future of Philadelphia
Scott Gabriel Knowles, PhD, Drexel University
The National Trust’s PreservationNation just featured the Uptown Theater in an article by the Alliance’s own Melissa Jest. Click the link below for more on this exciting, homegrown preservation campaign.
Earlier this month, over two hundred people attended GEDO’s EndangeredCITY benefit for the Alliance at Globe Dye Works in Frankford. In case you missed it, here is a quick recap of this spectacular event: