St. Joan of Arc buildings are nominated for Historical status

The Mission of At. Joan of Arc in October of 2019. Photo: Juniata News.

     The St. Joan of Arc Parochial School building (now Deep Roots Charter School) at 3568 Frankford Avenue, and the St. Joan of Arc Roman Catholic Church building (now the Mission of St. Joan of Arc) at 3558 Frankford Avenue, have both been placed into nomination for Historical status in the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places with the Philadelphia Historical Commission.

    The two buildings have been placed into nomination by Celeste Morello, who is asking that residents who would like to support the nomination to email the Philadelphia Historic Commission at preservation@phila.gov to express that support.

   Following is a brief history of St. Joan of Arc Church as given at the Church’s 100th Anniversary in 2019:

   St. Joan of Arc Church, in the Harrowgate area of Philadelphia, was established on October 1, 1919 by Msgr. Edward Hawks, a larger than life figure who was a convert from Anglicanism.  Originally ordained an Anglican priest in England, he went to Canada after his conversion to Catholicism, to study for the Catholic priesthood.  After ordination, he was asked to come to Philadelphia by  Archbishop Dennis Cardinal Dougherty to serve the area of Harrowgate in Philadelphia, named for a neighborhood in London which was an enclave of British Catholics.  Msgr. Hawks was a public preacher and often evangelized in Harrowgate Park and McPherson Square.  The first parishioners were immigrant workers in the myriad of factories which were part of Philadelphia’s burgeoning manufacturing industry at the beginning of the 20th century.

    Mass was originally celebrated in a converted blacksmith shop which was located on Frankford Ave.  The school was the first building to be erected and was dedicated in 1921. The Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary staffed the school for eighty-nine years. After the construction of the school, Mass was celebrated in the auditorium of the school until the Church was built in 1946. 

    The distinctive terra cotta roof and design of the Church were inspired by a church of the same name in France which Msgr. Hawks frequented often during his visits to Europe.  He was a military chaplain during World War I and traveled extensively.  Msgr. Hawks died on January 20, 1955 and is buried in the Church yard.

    Due to the changing demographic in the neighborhood, St. Joan of Arc School closed in 2003 and the Parish merged with Holy Innocents Parish in June 2013.  Since that time, although not a canonical parish, the Mission of St. Joan of Arc has continued to provide spiritual nourishment for the people of the area through Sunday Masses, a religious education program, an afterschool program, a food pantry and other social service programs.

    St. Joan of Arc Church has truly played a significant part in the story of Harrowgate during the past hundred years. We are grateful to the many people who have helped to maintain this Church and continue its mission in a neighborhood which is in more need than ever of its’ presence.

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