Overbrook Farms: Historic Designation May Affect a Catholic Church

The Rev. James W. Mayer greeted church-goers outside Our Lady of Lourdes Church after Mass.

The potential historical district designation for Overbrook Farms may affect a Catholic church that has been a part of the neighborhood for more than 100 years.

While the Philadelphia Historical Commission has recently led discussions to hold a vote for whether the neighborhood will receive a historic designation, the debate has been ongoing for years. If Overbrook Farms is named a historic district by the city, then there’s talk that average homeowners may become burdened by the cost of preserving their homes.

Overbrook Farms is one of the most historic neighborhoods in the city. The homes in the neighborhood are constructed of brick and stone, encompassing 19th-century architectural styles.

The Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, located on 63rd Street and Lancaster Avenue, has rung its church bells in the neighborhood since 1894. However, the Rev. James W. Mayer said if the historic designation is approved, the church might undergo some structural changes.

“We have already been affected. We were already told we are not allowed to have certain things on the property,” Mayer said. “We cannot change things without a consultation first. I am not sure how it will affect us in the long run.”

The Rev. James W. Mayer read scripture during Mass.

Our Lady of Lourdes was one of the churches built to serve families in Overbrook Farms in the early 1890s. Developers realized that innovating a new neighborhood would take more than custom-built homes, but for real community to develop they would need sufficient churches, according to the parish history.

The church is coined a “gateway” to the city as it sits along U.S. Route 1 and Lancaster Avenue.

“There was a gateway years and years ago, a toll because we are right on the edge of city limits,” said Mayer, who was appointed as pastor in 2004. “Lancaster Avenue is a very popular route because it takes you from the country into Center City.

“Our Lady of Lourdes is the first church you see coming towards the city and the last church you see leaving,” Mayer added.

Our Lady of Lourdes celebrated its namesake, the Virgin Mary, last weekend.

The Rev. James W. Mayer prayed before leaving the church after Mass.

One church-goer, Frank Germanovich, described the event as a sacred time to remember and honor the Virgin Mary.

“Miracles that happened to bless our mother,”  Germanovich added.

After Mass ended, the parish served champagne and cupcakes with yellow roses iced on top.

“The yellow roses are a symbol of our patron saint because that is how she appeared,” Mayer said. “When she came to see Bernadette in the cave of Massabielle.”

Our Lady of Lourdes holds four Masses every Sunday, two on weekday mornings and one on Saturday mornings.

For more information, visit www.ourladylourdes.org.

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