Jesuit university buys archbishop's mansion in Philadelphia that includes disused swimming pool

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.

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“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”.

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