Entered through a low brick archway from Willings Alley, the interior court site of St. Joseph's recalls the density of contemporary London, but its original location was chosen for its discreet site and its proximity to the Catholic neighborhoods in the oldest parts of the city. Even though William Penn was aware of Catholic meetings as early as 1711, Catholicism remained prohibited in Britain and its territories, and its adherents were leery of their prospects even in Philadelphia. Roman Catholics purchased the plot of ground off Willings Alley for the construction of a church and graveyard in 1733, and the following year their right to worship was challenged by the governor but was rejected by the Provincial Assembly on the grounds of Penn's assurance of religious tolerance to his colonists. This led to the construction of a tiny church that was entered from a small alley. Despite its late Federal marble-trimmed brick facade, the present building is an 1839 replacement of the original building with an adjacent school of the same period. The oldest portion is the late-eighteenth-century rectory, which was extended in 1850 by the fine brownstonetrimmed brick building that provides access to the church via an archway from Willings Alley.
You are here
St. Joseph's Church and Convent
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.