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West Mt. Airy church gets new life as circus school

Philadelphia School of Circus Arts has a new home at the former Catholic church

The St. Madeleine Sophie Church in West Mt. Airy will re-open as the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts.
Courtesy of Philadelphia School of Circus Arts

In what might be the first adaptive reuse project of its kind here in Philly, the defunct St. Madeleine Sophie Church in West Mt. Airy is set to re-open its doors this month serving a new kind of congregation—circus performers.

After what executive director Shana Kennedy called “an exhaustive property search,” the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts has announced that it will headquartered at the 1930s church, located on a three-acre campus at 6452 Greene Street. It will also be home to Circadium, the first school in the U.S. to offer a diploma of circus arts, and Give and Take Jugglers.

Shana and Greg Kennedy bought St. Madeleine Sophie Church for $1.2 million in August. The 28,000-square-foot property includes the sanctuary, a gym, the school building, a small home on the property, and a gatehouse.

Phase one of the $80,000 renovations have been underway since this summer. Within the 5,000-square-foot sanctuary—one of the standout structures on the three-acre campus— and its 40-foot-tall ceilings will be a viewing gallery and trampoline classes. Below the sanctuary is the gym, which will be used for aerial training and performances.

The 1930s St. Madeleine Sophie Church in West Mt. Airy is re-opening as a circus school.

The historic Manor House that’s also on the property will be the main headquarters for the Give and Take Jugglers program. Here, tight wires will be installed along the home’s lawn.

But one doesn’t need to be a world-class juggling act to set foot on the new circus arts campus. The Philadelphia School of Circus Arts will also have 100-plus classes open to the general public.

The grand opening weekend will be September 15-17.