The stretch of Montgomery Avenue right off of Fishtown’s main drag holds all of the charm and historicism that one comes to expect from a Philadelphia street. Not only does this block provide a solid sampling of grand, three-story row houses with well-preserved architectural detail and ample trees lining the sidewalks, it also has, not one, but two notable churches in its ranks.
When you first turn onto this street from Frankford Avenue, you are confronted with the block’s cornerstone: a striking rowhome with a two story square bay window and turret along the side, both clad in a blue-green matching that of the cornice. This house sets the tone for the rest of the row, all sporting simply decorated, well maintained cornices of varying colors and classic brownstone lintels.
Across the street stands the East Montgomery Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, originally built in 1875 and converted into apartments in the early 2000s. The sandstone church is of a relatively modest design, but the red doors and window trim, both of which are in a pointed formation, recall a gothic style distinct to church design in the late 19th century.
The conversion of the inactive church into lofts was markedly ahead of its time. Many regard this transformation as a forebear to the current trend of preserving defunct churches by converting them to apartments, single-family residences, or workplaces. This early innovation was a large part of what saved Methodist Episcopal from demolition this past spring when a developer planned to build new construction on the lot. Immense pushback from the community and preservationists quashed those plans. The building, a vital piece of the neighborhood’s history and the character of the block, still stands today.
A few doors down is another church, a simple stone construction, that is still active. Opened in 1894, the East Montgomery Atonement Lutheran Church remains a staple of community organizing and outreach, and provides numerous other resources in the neighborhood today.
East Montgomery Avenue jumps out among an abundance of historically relevant enclaves in Philadelphia. The street stands as a pillar of preservation in Fishtown, notable for its architectural style and grasp of the neighborhood’s roots and sense of community.