Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament was originally founded as Our Lady of the Rosary Roman Catholic Church, an outgrowth of the neighboring Our Mother of Sorrows. The cornerstone was laid in October of 1888 with great fanfare: over 1,000 people attended the ceremony, with multiple church bands and temperance societies among their numbers. Inside the cornerstone were names of officiating clergymen, the names of the president and the Pennsylvania governor, gold and silver coins minted that year, medals, and copies of The Times, and other newspapers from that day.
Two years later, on October 5, 1890, the finished church was dedicated. After the ceremonies, a procession of 4,000 children from the Sunday schools of Our Mother of Sorrows and Our Lady of the Rosary marched down the street. Articles about the dedication ceremony proclaimed that Our Lady of the Rosary was the “prettiest little church in Philadelphia.”
It was indeed a beautiful church, designed in the Romanesque Revival style by architect Frank Rushmore Watson. Built to seat 1,000 parishioners, Our Lady of the Rosary was constructed with locally quarried Haddington stone with granite trimmings, and its interior was fashioned with antique oak. Fifteen stained glass windows depicted different mysteries of the rosary, and the belfry spire was 122 feet high.
Other than the addition of a parochial school in 1901, articles about the church and its congregation were unremarkable marriage and funeral notices. Like many churches, Our Lady of the Rosary served mainly one ethnic group (in this case, Irish-American), but welcomed others in the community decades before other area churches followed suit. The population of the neighborhood shifted, and by 1996 – a year after Our Lady of the Rosary merged with the former Our Lady of Victory Parish and was renamed Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament – 90% of the 600 attending members were African and Caribbean American.
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament was merged again with St. Cyprian Parish in 2013, who used it for occasional liturgies. St. Cyprian was responsible for maintenance, but also was struggling, and without parish funding they would have to cut staff and outreach programs to maintain Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament. St. Cyprian petitioned to close the church rather than pay for its upkeep, and in 2014 the building was left vacant. A year later the property was sold to Boys Latin Charter School, despite the fact that they were mostly known for razing the Church of the Transfiguration for a proposed expansion to their school and had then done nothing with the lot for over a decade.
By the time the demolition notice was posted on the door of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament on Memorial Day weekend of 2021, there was little anyone could do. The appeals to prevent the demolition had been denied and without sufficient time for the opposition to the demolition to gain traction, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament was destroyed. In its last days only the belltower remained standing and then that too was gone. Months after the demolition the lot is still just a gaping hole in the ground, serving as a metaphor for its own loss. Another piece of the neighborhood’s few remaining historic and architectural treasures is no more, and empty space is all that is left.