The home of Philadelphia’s Catholic archbishops since the 1930s will soon be sold, archdiocesan officials confirmed Dec. 31, 2011.
The 10,000-square-foot mansion located on more than eight acres at 5700 City Avenue next to St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia was purchased by Cardinal Dennis Dougherty in 1935. It has been used as the home of every archbishop of Philadelphia ever since, including Cardinals John O’Hara, John Krol, Anthony Bevilacqua and Justin Rigali.
Prominent visitors of the archbishops’ residence over the years have including Pope John Paul II in 1979 and President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan.
While Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput did not comment on the impending sale of the house, archdiocesan officials indicated that proceeds from the sale would go to help struggling inner-city parishes in the Archdiocese and that the Archbishop may reside in the Cathedral Rectory, which had been built originally as the residence of the Archbishop.
According to a 1982 Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission report, Philadelphia real estate records and contemporary news accounts, the stone house was built in 1882 in the Victorian Gothic style by one of Philadelphia’s leading architects, a Quaker, Addison Hutton, for the prominent Scull family.
They lived in the home and named it Egerton House, along with a home on an adjoining property, which is now the convent of the contemplative Sisters of the Visitation.
By around 1925, new owner Richard J. Seltzer, a prominent real estate broker, purchased and upgraded Egerton House and renamed it the Terraces.
By 1935 the 16-room home (with five bathrooms) and its eight acres was purchased by Cardinal Dougherty for $117,500, according to archdiocesan records. The majority of the funds for the purchase came from the sale of the former archbishop’s home a few blocks away, which had been a gift from a real estate developer who died three years earlier.
The house’s granite walls and slate roofs were similar in style to nearby St. Charles Seminary, the Pa. historical report noted. That may have been an appealing feature for Cardinal Dougherty, who was proud of the massive archdiocesan college seminary building whose completion he had overseen in 1928.
When purchased in 1935 the property included an outdoor swimming pool that was never used thereafter. Contrary to published reports, today the pool remains a concrete ruin behind the home.
The residence, the 1982 report reads, “marks the social arrival of the Catholic Church, and is in the center of a major group of Catholic institutions including convents, the seminary and St. Joseph’s University.”
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