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105-year-old East Kensington rectory gets townhome treatment

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Take a peek inside mid-construction

New townhomes in an old rectory in East Kensington will hit the market this spring.
Courtesy of the Somers Team

There are many major adaptive reuse projects underway around Philly, from train sheds-turned-grocery stores to schools-turned-affordable housing. But there are other adaptive reuse projects of the smaller variety, like this 105-year-old stone rectory in East Kensington that’s about to make its debut as townhomes.

Red Oak Development and the Somers Team have spent the past year converting the former Memorial Parish House at 2126 E. Firth Street into five three-story, three-bedroom townhomes, each with private roof decks. Toner Architects took the lead on the project’s design.

“We’ve worked on the Parish House for about a year, painstakingly restoring it,” said Anthony Giacobbe of Red Oak Development. “And we’re using as much as we can from the original church and rectory and putting it back into the project.”

The rectory, built in 1912, was once part of the Church of Emmanuel and the Good Shepherd, which was founded in 1868. Red Oak Development originally bought both properties and planned to repurpose the whole parcel. When the church was deemed structurally unsound, they sold it to another developer, who then demolished it and built six homes on the lot.

When the church was torn down, Red Oak Development, which also doubles as a custom fabricator, tried to salvage as much of the wood as possible. “Anything wood-related that was going to be trashed, we kept,” said Giacobbe.

Wooden joists and slate from both the church and the rectory are now featured as reclaimed wood accents throughout the homes, from the remade stair treads, to the handrails, to the bathroom vanities. Some of the homes will have some talking pieces that were found during renovations, including a built-in antique safe in one basement and a stone cross an another’s roof deck.

Top: Red Oak Development added a third story to the two-story, stone rectory. Bottom left: One townhome’s roof deck will feature the rectory’s original stone cross. Bottom right: Concrete was poured on site for the countertops.

Adaptive reuse projects are nothing new for Red Oak Development, which is based in Kensington (“98 percent of our projects right now are in Kensington,” Giacobbe says). But while the Parish House is not the oldest building they’ve worked on, it’s definitely been the most complicated. “It was by far the most complex because we did not want to do cookie-cutter stuff,” said Giacobbe. “We wanted to treat it with respect, with it being a 105-year-old building. It’s definitely been a labor of love.”

Although the three inner townhomes are still under construction, the first two corner homes are set to finish up construction and hit the market this spring, with prices starting in the $600,000s, says Giacobbe.