The Neighborhood of Fairmount
Philadelphia's Art Museum Area
St. Francis Xavier ChurchThe grand Romanesque structure adorning the northeast corner of 24th and Green Streets is the oldest church in the neighborhood. Completed in 1898, this building replaced the old church that was located at 25th and Biddle (approximately where the Art Museum steps are today). The parish itself began in 1839.
While the building has many striking features, the tower is the most prominent. The spire is one hundred, fifty-two feet tall. It is one of the most recognized landmarks in the neighborhood. The stained glass windows are beautiful, especially the circular one above the main entrance. It was given to the church as a gift from Archbishop Ryan. It's 22 feet in diameter, and its fine stonework reminds one of lace.
The building was the victim of a fire in 1906. Luckily, most of the stone structure remained intact and the interior was rebuilt.
The Church serves as The Oratory of Saint Philip Neri. The Oratory tries to duplicate the beginnings of the Church through simple prayer meetings. St. Frannies (as it is called by many) also has an active Grief Ministry.
On our way down 24th Street, we passed by the school building. The school is the only Catholic school still opened and operating in the area. Unfortunately, The Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary ended their long history here at the end of the 2002-2003 school year, but they are fondly remembered, and the lay faculty does a wonderful job.
The building's square shape earned it the nickname "The Crackerbox". Some called it a factory. However, while the building has never been considered an architectural beauty, the quality of the education given inside is substantial.
Green Steet itself is pretty impressive. Many of the homes lining the street were built by affluent families in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The next part of the tour will take us along Green Street to 22nd Street. There we'll stop at another church, the home of the Pink Sisters.
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