Philadelphia neighbors anxiously awaiting demolition of historic St. Laurentius Church in Fishtown

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Demolition of Fishtown’s historic St. Lawrence Church could begin on Tuesday.

Local residents gathered outside the Philadelphia landmark on Monday to see the church before it collapses.

“I spent the whole eight years of my high school here, graduating in 1975, so I just came to watch because I knew it was going to happen.

Built in 1882, St. Lawrence’s Church on Berks Street is a Roman Catholic church that once served primarily the Polish community. For several years, the community has been at the center of a debate: demolish or repair.

“Last winter a lot of bricks fell and our houses shook. There was a lot of noise,” said Margaret Ann Ramsey of Fishtown.

Neighbors say the sound of falling stones and bricks was so loud they thought it was an earthquake. After engineers determined that it was structurally flawed, demolition became the only reasonable option.

“If parts of the building are falling down and stuff like that, kids are going to school there, it’s probably about time,” said Fishtown’s Bill Kunitz.

Action News was there as crews were pulled up to secure the structure for demolition. Hammering and knocking off the roof is just the beginning of a difficult and tedious job.

City leaders say crews will remove the towers by hand as a precautionary measure for the adjacent school and densely populated neighborhood.

Classes at St. Laurentius School will resume in just over three weeks, but removing the towers alone is expected to take 6-8 weeks.

The congregation discussed an apartment building with 50 residential units that should be built in place of the church.

According to Council President Darrell Clarke, the recovery plans are not yet complete.

He says the future of the site will be an ongoing discussion with the community and his office is still looking for feedback.

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