The First and the Last
Eden Hall Chapel
Located in Torresdale, PA
Photo © 2005 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Eden Hall Chapel History
This chapel was a French Gothic Revival style church that was part of a convent and school named Eden Hall, which was established by the Society of the Sacred Heart. The property was originally a private estate, and was purchased by the sisters in 1847. Frank Wills, a noted English Ecclesiological revival architect, designed the 35 by 45 foot building in 1849. A few prominent people have been linked to the site over the years, including St. John Neumann, two aunts of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and St. Katharine Drexel, whose parents were entombed in a crypt adjacent to the chapel but have since been disinterred.
The boarding school closed in the late 1970s due to financial issues, and the complex fell into disrepair. Most of the buildings, including classrooms, dormitories, a library, a gymnasium and passages connecting them all, were destroyed by a major fire on Jan. 31, 1979. The buildings were demolished shortly thereafter, although much of the original stone foundations are still believed to remain underground. After the initial closing of the school, Joseph C. Fluehr Sr. protected the property from becoming residential real estate, and the park that the school once stood on has been named Fluehr Park in his memory in 1985; it is currently under jurisdiction of the Fairmount Park Commission.
The School District of Philadelphia and a church organization leased the chapel for periods of time until 1990, when maintenance of the building began to lag greatly. Concerned citizens formed the "Friends of Fluehr Park at Eden Hall," and although the group worked with the park commission to improve the park, no renovation of the chapel was performed. An initial estimate of $1 million was produced for re-use of the chapel.
In July 2006, the 157 year old chapel was set ablaze by two initial fires, one started in the basement using vodka as an accelerant, and another began by lighting fuel from an overturned generator. The remains of the chapel were bulldozed in 2007.