Historic Fishtown Catholic church spared from demolition

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Parishioners say their prayers have been answered as St. Laurentius Catholic Church in Philadelphia's Fishtown section has been spared from demolition. (WPVI)

Parishioners in Philadelphia's Fishtown section are celebrating a win that saves a 130-year-old Catholic church building and it's twin spires from the wrecking ball.

"People who sacrificed to build this, it's a tribute to them," said A.J. Thomson.

At the corner of Memphis and East Berks streets sits St. Laurentius - the first and oldest Polish Catholic church in the city.

At a hearing Friday, the historical commission voted to designate it as a historic place, preventing the Archdiocese from moving forward with plans to demolish it.

The church was closed last year and the building is showing its age. Cracks are growing and scaffolding has gone up to catch falling bricks.

Neighbors are happy about the decision and hope something can be done.

"I think it's a beautiful, historic structure. A lot of people have a lot of love and it'd hurt to see it go," said George Minner.

"Hopefully try to do something to keep it structurally sound and me living right here, I have to up my renters insurance just in case," said Brent Latham.

"As a Catholic, I don't want to see any church closed," said MargaretAnn Ramsey.

Ramsey, who attended school here for a year, isn't celebrating yet.

"I think it might be giving us false hope. They can't tear it down but there's still he question of where will the money come to fix it? " she said.

In a statement the Archdiocese says:

Today's ruling by the historical commission did not take into account vital factors such as the public safety hazard presented by the former Saint Laurentius Church building and the inability of the local parish, which owns the building, to afford the necessary repairs.

Thomson, who represents those who want to save the church, believe money is available to preserve a piece of Fishtown's history.

"It's not as bad as the archdiocese is saying," said Thomas.

"There are federal, state grants for this type of rehabilitation, whether it's a church again - we can't say, it's up to the Archdiocese," said Thomas.

Archdiocese says it could cost $3.5 million to repair the church. They plan to appeal the ruling.

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