Posted on April , 13, 2015 by Elizabeth Ames
Tabernacle United Church of Christ is located in a beautiful building on the corner of 37th and Chestnut streets, Philadelphia. The building is incredibly old; construction on it was completed in 1884. The structure is everything one would expect from a 19th century church: weathered, grey stone; spires spiking the sky; tall gothic towers; stained glass windows; ornate gates; and countless arches. It simultaneously commands attention from passerby while somehow fitting into the modern, urban setting that encompasses it.
At a glance, the church looks like a castle that belongs in a far away place. But the small details show how the city has changed it. Flags and banners touting against racism and prejudice hang from the front of the building. There are security cameras over every door, and electric lights are drilled into the outside walls. Dingy trash cans hide in the shadows. A harsh black fence blocks the back of the building from the alleyway. The inside is dark and dusty, but through the ornate windows, skyscrapers can be seen. The church has slowly morphed into a representation of life in today’s world.
The juxtaposition of old and new is what makes the building so intriguing. It truly tells the story of the building from when it was first built in up-and-coming Philadelphia to present day. Looking at the security cameras and lights, you can see the compromise between the need for security and the desire to maintain the beauty of the structure. The facade has become a stunning platform for justice in the modern activist world. Today, the building shows that it is not simply a house for a church, but an adoptive landmark that will be a part of University City for many years to come.
Photography and Text by Elizabeth Ames, Copyright 2015
About the Author: Elizabeth Ames is a senior enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2015.