The Church of The Epiphany
Located at the northwest corner of 15th and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia, The Church of the Epiphany was Consecrated in 1834 and closed in 1898 when it was merged with St. Luke's.
The Church of St. Luke & The Epiphany
Witnessing to the Gospel of Christ on 13 th Street in Philadelphia since 1840.
Accessible entrances to the ground floor of the church building are located on 13th Street, directly north of the front steps, and on the south side, in the garden. On the ground floor are accessible bathrooms, the Church School Room, the Blue Room, and an elevator to the main floor. A ramp leads to the basement level kitchen and the assembly rooms used for Coffee Hour and other functions. The elevator provides access to the narthex, nave, side aisles, north chapel, and Furness Chapel.
The main floor of the church building is equipped with an amplification system to make the spoken portions of the service more audible to everyone. Speakers are mounted on the walls of the north and south side aisles.
Designed by Philadelphia architect Thomas S. Stewart in 1839, the Church of St. Luke and The Epiphany was completed in 1840 for St. Luke's Church, one of the churches that formed the present parish. It is one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture surviving in the City.
The site was selected after other locations at Broad and Locust Streets and 13th and Spruce Streets were rejected because of cost. The land was acquired for $15,000.
Stewart's designed was chosen over six other plans submitted by several prominent architects including Thomas Strickland and John Notman. The original plan included a steeple; however, a lack of funds forced them to abandon that plan. A contract was approved to build the Church for $30,000 plus $200 for the self-supporting gallery.
The body of the church looks much as it originally did when the building was consecrated on October 16, 1840. The Philadelphia Public Ledger reported at the time: "The interior is exceedingly beautiful and chaste. Without pretending to give a detailed description, we state that above the floor every thing, even to the glass of the windows, if of a pure white, and in every section of the church is introduced the richest and most elaborate carving and molding in wood and plaster. Even the organ is of this color and in this style. It is praised as a superb instrument. The pews are represented as of oak and the damask covering them is of a corresponding color. The effect is remarkably fine."
The Chancel has undergone the most dramatic changes over the years. Originally, it was only eight feet deep and a semi-circular platform extended into the body of the church. It had a raised central pulpit behind a reading desk and communion table.
In 1853 the Chancel was torn down and a new one built in the current shape. The platform extending into the Church was removed and ten new pews added. A richly carved elevated pulpit was built to one side and a lectern placed on the other. Carved wooden benches for clergy were built on the sides and an altar placed against the rear wall. An altar rail was also added at that time. On the walls above, were inscribed the Ten Commandments and the Creed. The central circle in the ceiling was painted glass lit from windows above. In 1890 and 1891 the current brass pulpit and lectern replaced the wood ones.
When the merger with the Church of The Epiphany took place 1898, the organ from Epiphany was installed in the Chancel. Until 1925 when the current Austin organ was installed, the Church had two organs, the original in the gallery and the chancel organ.
In 1899 the Chancel was once again extended into the body of the church and the first two rows of pews in on the center aisle removed. The renovation of 1906 achieved the current look of the Chancel. The tile floor and choir stalls where installed at that time. The mosaics of St. Luke and of the symbols of the Epiphany designed by Sawyer and Flintoff were added in 1912.
The altar was moved away from the wall and placed in its current position in 1976. The cross above the altar was also added at the same time.
The stained glass windows on the main floor were added gradually between 1876 and 1899. Those in the gallery representing the Apostles were installed in 1912.
The Baptismal font, now located in the narthex since 1976, was first placed in front of the steps to the chancel. It was given to the church in 1856 by George L. Harrison, a prominent businessman and vestryman for many years. The chapel north of the Chancel was built as a Baptistry with a bequest from Asa Whitney and the font was moved there in 1876.
The Chapel and Parish House on the south side of the Church designed by Frank Furness was built by the Harrison family in 1876. Originally, the wall to the church was removed and pews placed in the chapel extending into the Church. The wall was replaced in 1891 when an addition was added to accommodate the Sunday Schools.
Extensive renovations to the lower level of the building were completed in the 1980's to provide access for the disabled and to make the space attractive for the numerous community groups using the building.
The exterior of the building was for many years painted brown. It was changed to white in the late 1960's. The garden between the church and parish house replaced a patio in 1965.
The building is an historic landmark registered by the Philadelphia Historical Commission and is listed in the Historic American Buildings Survey of the Library of Congress.
Community Use of the Building
In general, the building is not available for private parties or for weddings (except those of parishioners). Sound systems, gambling, alcoholic beverages or smoking are not permitted. There are two fees, one for the use of the building and the other for staff time to open and close the building. Parking is available on the street.