A Tour of Saint Mary’s Historic Ardmore Church

If you’ve ever gone to the post office on Ardmore Avenue, you’ve probably driven or walked by Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church on the opposite corner. But did you know that the church is one of Ardmore’s most historical buildings?

Saint Mary’s recently celebrated its 125th anniversary, which marks the year the main church building was completed in 1887. The church was designed and built by Allen Evans, an Ardmore resident, active member of Saint Mary’s, and partner of the famed Philadelphia architect Frank Furness.

Program from Saint Mary's Recent Anniversary Celebration

Program from Saint Mary’s Recent Anniversary Celebration

I recently had the chance to get a tour of the church from Lonnie Hovey, a member of Saint Mary’s and a restoration architect at Whitman, Requardt & Associates. It was wonderful to find out about this historic building that I’ve passed many times over the years and knew nothing about!

Saint Mary's Church

Saint Mary’s Church

Saint Mary’s was established as a parish in 1886. Prior to that time, the church community was a mission chapel for the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr that served the mill workers in the Ardmore. When the parish was established, land was purchased on Ardmore Ave., at the same site where the church is located today. Allen Evans designed and built the church, the Parish House, and the rectory between 1887 and 1889. Saint Mary’s is one of just a few buildings that Evans designed on his own, without Frank Furness’ involvement; Merion Cricket Club is another.

Saint Mary's Front Entryway

Saint Mary’s Front Entryway

Saint Mary’s has a long history of serving the Ardmore community. Rachel Evans, the architect’s wife, was one of the important female members of the early church community and involved in the Women’s Guild, which was established to serve women and poor children. The Women’s Guild set up Saint Mary’s Laundry, which “helped put poor women to work to raise money for their families,” according to Hovey. The laundry ran from the 1890s to the 1950s and was located on Saint Mary’s Road in Ardmore. Another important outreach effort was the Ardmore Bargain Counter, or ABC Shop, which sold “household goods and clothes for the poor.”

Stained Glass in Chapel Room: This collection of stained glass windows records the history of the church.

Stained Glass in Chapel Room: This collection of stained glass windows records the history of the church.

The church also has a longstanding tradition of educating children as part of its mission. It was one of the first churches in the early part of the twentieth century to include children in its services. In 1950, it began a kindergarten program to educate local children, which ran until the 1970s. Currently, it runs a daycare program in its Parish House. It also has a legacy of tolerance as one of the first churches to ordain female priests. Prior to its current pastor, Rev. Michael Giansiracusa, Saint Mary’s was led by a female priest who was in a committed same-sex relationship.

Back of Saint Mary's Church: This section of the church includes bays that were added "in the spirit of [Allen Evans'] design," according to Hovey

Back of Saint Mary’s Church: This section of the church includes bays that were added “in the spirit of [Allen Evans’] design,” according to Hovey

Saint Mary’s is a thriving church community, with 297 members, that continues to serve the disadvantaged in the Ardmore area. It runs a Food Pantry to serve the local Ardmore community. For Thanksgiving, the pantry gave out 68 Thanksgiving dinners, with food for the holiday and breakfast for the day after. Twice a week, 25-50 local families take advantage of the Food Pantry. Donations are welcome during the week at the Parish Hall.

Front of Saint Mary's Church: The rood screen, which separates the chancel from the nave, was designed by Allen Evans and dedicated by his wife Rachel after his death.

Front of Saint Mary’s Church: The rood screen, which separates the chancel from the nave, was designed by Allen Evans and dedicated by his wife Rachel after his death.

Interested in checking Saint Mary’s out for yourself? It’s a beautiful church and an important part of Ardmore history! Sunday services are at 8:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Although I’m not a member of the church, I had the chance to meet a few of the members and Rev. Giansiracusa during my tour, and they were very nice and welcoming. I’d highly recommend a visit! I’d also like to thank Lonnie Hovey who took time on a Sunday to give me the tour and share so many great details about the history of the church.

stainedglass2

Tiffany Stained Glass Window: one of several in the church. Tiffany Studios “played with the thickness of the glass to form deep, dark tones and lighter tones,” according to Hovey. If you go visit the church, be sure to get up close to the windows to check out this technique.

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About Meagan

I'm a long-time Ardmore, PA resident, and I love my home town!
This entry was posted in Community, Historic Building, History. Bookmark the permalink.

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