The RC cathedral on Benjamin Franklin Parkway was started in the 1840s about the time of the Know Nothing Riots of the natives, mostly protestant, against the immigrants, Irish and German, mostly Catholic.
It was built on the western edge of the city that was more populated along the Delaware River than the Schuylkill River on the west. It was also built on Logan Square, the general area of which including the Cathedral grounds, was the city’s potter’s field.
Contrary to popular belief the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a new diagonal boulevard that mirrors the Champs Elysees in Paris in design and measurement, was not thought of by returning American veterans of WWI after they had seen Paree. The Boulevard was a diagonal thoroughfare from City Hall to the old obsolete Reservoir, planned site of a new city museum way before WWI.
No doubt because it was the cathedral of a powerful voting block of Catholics in Philly in the beginning of the twentieth century, it could not be knocked down for political reasons. The angle of the road had to be adjusted to keep Sts. Peter and Paul’s intact on Logan Square being cut through and soon to be a fancy traffic circle on the cultural mile of public buildings and museums of the new parkway.
Sts. Peter and Paul’s is not an attractive building on the outside. Its brownstone façade dates it to the nineteenth century. So too it sits tall and out of proportion. Perhaps the original design with two small bell towers on top of each end of the front would have balanced the top heavy appearance a bit more into architectural symmetry.
That and Urban Myth has the cathedral having ten feet added to the bottom of the structure as a defensive move so that no stained glass and or windows would be near street level for anti-Catholic rioters to attack or throw rocks through.
The true beauty of the cathedral is its surroundings of classical and French architectural style public buildings, museums and public art.
This lack of street level windows and or stained glass near to the main floor of the interior makes for a rather gloomy interior.
Though with a lot of lighting some of these interior pictures seem presentable. That and the overall interior of marble veneers and gilded plaster on wood decorations in imitation of solid stone structure presents an acceptable theatrical setting but nothing of remarkable original or unique design.
|Philly GeoHistory Map 1910|
|Logan Square - before Parkway - 1910|