A great item from a couple of Project readers, Terry Callen and Tom Dewees. They alerted me to a Michigan photographer who ventured to our neck of the woods last year to take some shots (interiors included!) of the former Transfiguration of Our Lord parish on Cedar Avenue.
Our experiences with the Long Goodbye have so far been limited to exteriors, because the Project doesn't have the time and energy to track down the current owners of these properties to try to gain access. And, because as bold as I am, breaking into abandoned churches in depressed areas isn't exactly my idea of a good time.
There's no information as to whether the unnamed photographer in question did the former or the latter, but it's great to have these shots. Some immediate thoughts:
The creepiness. There is nothing scarier than any abandoned property, churches included, and some of the images here are high on the freaky factor. The shots involving the lower church doors with the cross-shaped windows, in particular, will haunt my nightmares.
The architecture. Not much left, obviously, and what's there is pretty ragged. But Transfiguration strikes me as the rare unique church. What I mean is that most Philly churches resemble each other to some extent. Minor variations aside, you tend to see the same elements and same architectural styles: Gothic, Renaissance, Romanesque, etc. The best churches, though, are those that are so distinct that there's nothing else like them around; churches like St. Francis de Sales or Our Lady of Hope. There are still some signs of that in Transfiguration--the imposing marble columns that frame the apse, the intricate tile mosaic molding, and the intricately carved and scripted tympanums.
The water damage. Some of the worst we've seen, including Our Lady of Hope and Bryn Athyn. To be honest, there's no way to know how much of this has occurred in the nine years or so since the parish closed. Still, if it was anything like it is now, it might explain why the Archdiocese closed this building and put the consolidated St. Cyprian in St. Carthage's building. (Not that Carthage / Cyprian is much better off in that regard.) It doesn't excuse the Archdiocese's decision, in the Project's eyes, but it does make it a little more understandable.
Impossibly sad, yes, but also a crucial reminder that any parish can suffer such an inglorious fate. Think yours is immune? Think again. They all straddle the most tenuous of lines.
What will you do to save them?