May 10, 2021
A Catholic church that stood for more than 135 years in the Tacony section of Northeast Philadelphia was destroyed by a fire on Sunday, resulting in its demolition on Monday afternoon.
The former St. Leo the Great Church, located at Keystone and Unruh streets, went up in flames around 5 p.m., according to the Philadelphia Fire Department. More than 100 firefighters responded to the scene as black smoke rose from the old structure. The church unoccupied at the time.
RECAP: Firefighters arrived around 5:15 p.m. Sunday to find heavy fire at St. Leo's Church in Tacony. It took about two hours to bring the fire under control. The church was not in use at the time. pic.twitter.com/6NCkCp0lyQ— Philadelphia Fire (@PhillyFireDept) May 10, 2021
The two-alarm fire was placed under control around 7:30 p.m., but firefighters and officials deemed the building a total loss. Some residents were temporarily displaced and surrounding buildings also sustained some damage.
On the scene of a devastating fire at the former St. Leo’s Parish in @ArchPhilly. No injuries but former parishioners- who have come from as far as New Jersey — are devastated, with many in tears. pic.twitter.com/4Nd9hhyx5N— Gina Christian (@GinaJesseReina) May 9, 2021
A demolition crew was on site to knock down the remains of the church on Monday.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia had merged the St. Leo Parish with the nearby Our Lady of Consolation Parish in 2013. St. Leo's remained a worship site for another five years until the archdiocese formally closed the building and ceased ecclesiastical uses, Catholic Philly reported.
The church was designed by architect Frank R. Watson and was constructed in 1884. It reportedly was sold last month to buyers who intended to lease the space for religious purposes. The building had been added to the Philadelphia Historical Commission's Register of Historic Places in 2019.
There were no injuries reported in Sunday's fire, whose cause remains under investigation.