The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania built the “Episcopal Church House” in 1894 for $155,000. The five-story brick-and-limestone structure is located at the corner of 12th and Walnut Streets, in Center City, Philadelphia.
The Church House functioned as diocese headquarters. The bishop of Pennsylvania maintained an office on the second floor. The original building had a pipe organ in a second-story chapel with stained glass windows, and eight stone statues of the saints posted on its roof.
The diocese stayed 27 years, selling the building for $325,000 in 1921 to the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber sold the building in 1946 to Jefferson Medical College, which sold it in 1975 to Pierre Uniforms Inc.
When we bought the building in 1986, the price was $950,000, but the building had seen better days, and required a complete overhaul. Our goal was to rehab this historic building into the nicest law offices in the United States. However, we first he had to evict the building’s tenants, which included a disco called “Second Story,” which occupied the second floor chapel, and a dance club in the basement known as the Catacombs, which was eerily reminiscent of the “Milk Bar” in the classic movie “A Clockwork Orange.” “Second Story” was Philadelphia’s version of New York’s “Studio 54” and many who visit our offices still have fond, if somewhat fuzzy, memories of earlier times in our building. From Church House to night club, the building has indeed had a colorful history.
In papers filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, Jim Beasley, an Episcopalian by birth, argued that the current tenants were using the Church House “in a manner which is immoral, improper and objectionable,” and he stated that his intention was to “restore this landmark building to productive economic and social use.” Fortunately for our Firm, we won, and were able to complete the rebirth of this building. The Firm was finally able to occupy the building in 1991. It took close to $5 million to rehab the Church House. Due to the exacting detail in accurately restoring the building, upon its completion, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission awarded the project a Historic Preservation Commendation for Outstanding Achievement. In 1996, we commissioned well known muralist Michael Webb to create and apply a mural on the five-story back of our building, surrounding our private parking lot, and is now part of the Mural Arts walking tour through Philadelphia.