134-year-old historic church vandalized in Philadelphia's Society Hill

Police estimate $15,000 in damage was done by the vandal.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024
Historic church vandalized in Philadelphia's Society Hill
Cleanup is underway at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church after rocks were thrown through first-floor windows early Monday morning.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia police are investigating an act of vandalism at a historic church in the city's Society Hill neighborhood.

Mother Bethel AME Church is a place of worship that is revered as the birthplace of the African Methodist Movement.

"For that church -- which is iconic -- to be attacked, is shocking," said Cordelia Biddle from Society Hill.

The incident happened between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. Monday.

A witness reported seeing a man throw rocks through the windows of Mother Bethel on 6th Street.

Officers say the man then fled the area on Lombard Street towards 7th Street.

The windows that were damaged date back to 1890, according to Pastor Reverend Mark Kelly Tyler.

Tyler says just last month, Mother Bethel was awarded thousands of dollars from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to preserve the historic building and the windows that are now in pieces.

Police estimate $15,000 in damage was done by the vandal. The damage was discovered by a cleaning crew Monday morning.

"Unfortunately, in a part of the world that we live in today, even a church is not considered sacred," Tyler said.

He also says this isn't the first time this has happened.

"Often times you're left with nothing but the cleanup, and to move on without any answer as to why," Tyler added.

Police say the area was thoroughly processed and photographed by detectives. They also say, unfortunately, the church's video camera was inoperable at the time of the incident.

Tyler told Action News that the church will be looking into improving security.

In the meantime, it's unclear if the act of vandalism was targeted or random.

"My hope is that the worst-case scenario is that this is just a random act of vandalism," Tyler said. "Grateful that no one was hurt. Windows can always be replaced, but people cannot be."