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Archbishop’s residence sold for £6m

By on Monday, 10 September 2012

The mansion has been home to Philadelphia's Catholic archbishops since 1935 (Photo: CNS)

The mansion has been home to Philadelphia's Catholic archbishops since 1935 (Photo: CNS)

St Joseph’s University will buy the Archbishop of Philadelphia’s residence for $10 million (£6 million), the university announced last week.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia signed a letter of intent with St Joseph’s to acquire the 8.9-acre property and its three-storey, 23,350-square-foot mansion that has been the home of Philadelphia’s Catholic archbishops since 1935.

The property sits across Cardinal Avenue from the university’s campus along City Avenue.

“Acquiring this adjacent property presents an opportunity that will be integral to the university’s long-term strategic planning,” said St Joseph’s president, Fr Kevin Gillespie. “As we look to the future, this opens exciting possibilities for the university community, and it will further enhance our students’ experience for decades to come.”

Fr Gillespie said the university had no immediate plans for development on the property and will evaluate its possible short-term use for administrative offices.

St Joseph’s officials expect to sign the agreement of sale within the next several weeks.

Archbishop Charles Chaput, the most recent Philadelphia archbishop to reside in the home after Cardinals Justin Rigali, Anthony Bevilacqua, John Krol, Gerald O’Hara and Dennis Dougherty, will now live at St Charles Borromeo Seminary, located 5.3 miles south.

According to archdiocesan records, the home was purchased in 1935 by Cardinal Dougherty for $117,500.

The house’s granite walls and slate roofs were similar in style to nearby St. Charles Seminary, according to a 1982 Pennsylvania historical report. That may have been an appealing feature for Cardinal Dougherty, who was proud of the massive archdiocesan college seminary building whose completion he had overseen in 1928.

When purchased, the property included an outdoor swimming pool that was never used thereafter and that today remains a concrete ruin behind the home.

The residence, the 1982 report reads, “marks the social arrival of the Catholic Church, and is in the centre of a major group of Catholic institutions including convents, the seminary and St Joseph’s University”.

  • Charles

    We must remember that some styles of architecture are beautiful and eternal and the church should promote and preserve beauty in architecture. The relativistic fallacy of beauty being only in the eye of the beholder must be debunked as wrong; certain standards of symmetry and harmony are objective. This archbishop’s residence is an example of something worth keeping in the church. Liverpool Cathedral on the other hand, should be sold off as office space.

  • gjml

     I like Liverpool cathedral…ergo; beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

  • michael mcshea
  • Mark

     The fact of your liking something doesn’t make it a general objective truth that the something is beautiful. LMC is miserable by objective Catholic standards of sacred architecture and your liking LMC doesn’t mean beauty is subjective; it just means that you have bad taste.

  • Greenmoon

    Where would a stable in Bethlehem fit into the “objective Catholic standards of sacred architecture”?

  • gjml

    Oooooh! I take it we’re straying into philosophy here… “beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” (Keats) 
    And when were these ‘standards of sacred architecture’ set in stone?? (Haha!)
    The ancient Greek philosophers argued that things proportioned according to the golden ratio seemed more pleasing and attractive to people – this might be what you describe ‘eternal’. (Apparently, in some quarters during the Gothic period, this classical view of beauty was seen as sinful!) There may well be some evolutionary and/or cultural reasons why classical proportions have a generally pleasing effect – and I like them too – but what each person sees as beautiful still varies; is still subjective. It depends on their background and culture – same with music – or are you going to argue that there is only certain music that is ‘beautiful’? I don’t personally like a lot of Victorian architecture – too heavy for MY idea of beauty – you are free to disagree. I don’t like much Eastern art and music – because I don’t have much experience or understanding of those cultures – I don’t believe that therefore they are NOT beautiful (just not to me). There is no OBJECTIVE (Catholic or otherwise) standard of beauty.I quite like the Archbishop’s residence, I also like the bold circular, airy ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’ – I CAN call it beautiful and you can THINK I have bad taste…

  • Mark

     Thank you for your thoughtful disagreement. I respect your answer. My view is that some forms of architecture are associated with our faith historically while LMC is an Aztec style not associated with our faith. I do appreciate civilized debate unlike the sloppy entry by Greenmoon which poses no argument rather than intent to irritate. Best Regards

  • Greenmoon

    All I am suggesting is that my celebration of my faith is not dependant on the size, shape or age of the building in which that celebration is held.
    I would still like an answer to my “sloppy entry”. 

  • gjml

    I understand what you mean in your last comment ..but aren’t you only thinking of Western architecture’s connections to Catholic faith as they both developed over the centuries? Other cultures blended christianity into their own traditional architecture and ideas of beauty. I urge you to step back and open your eyes and mind and maybe glimpse beauty where you might not expect it! You are still free to decide ‘no I don’t like this or that’!
     I too like a debate. To be fair, I don’t think Greenmoon’s comment was sloppy – he/she was in turn irritated by your comment! Best regards to you both – let’s agree to differ and not fall out…

  • Mark

     Thank you for adding more detail to your position. As a child I felt depressed in auditorium-modern style churches and I didn’t even see an inspiring church until I went to the great Cathedrals of Europe. I have seen beautiful Buddhist Temples such as Wang Chai in Hong Kong BTW. No one in my family or school were traditionalists so I didn’t learn to dislike auditorium style churches; I just felt they hampered my experience at mass just as the depressing folk guitar music did. Regarding the stable, I never felt that it served as a model of architectural inspiration but rather as a sign of humanity and solidarity. Cheers.

  • Greenmoon


  • Apostolic

    Yes, indeed. What a pity the original masterpiece by Lutyens wasn’t completed. The wonderful architectural model which survives is a reminder of the days before the Church lost her sense of beauty along with her nerve.

  • Cafeteria R.C.

    Why does one guy need such a large house in the first place? Why has this property tax exempt? It is time that many religious administrartors practice what they preach.

  • daclamat

    10 million dollars is a drop in the ocean compared to the settlements the archbishop is having to pay out. Still, every little helps