Two historic Catholic elementary school buildings in Delaware County have been revitalized as senior housing by Catholic Housing and Community Services. Local residents recently had the opportunity for a sneak peek before the big opening.
Some 200 alumni and friends of the former Saint Joseph Parish School in Collingdale were invited earlier this month to tour the building which will soon take on new life as an archdiocesan senior housing complex for seniors ages 62 and older.
The site is the 6th of its nature in CHCS’ growing portfolio of senior housing and the first in the suburbs for the agency.
The school, which closed in June 2010 due to shifting demographics, once stood as a pillar of the community.
In the 1960s and 1970s the parish school served some 1,600 students and was recognized as the largest grade school among private and public schools in Delaware County.
On Tuesday, April 4, classmates and friends gathered to tour the freshly painted halls where they once spent majority of their childhood days.
Marykay McCaughan Klara, Class of 1970, donned a t-shirt commemorating the nearly 100-year history of the school.
“Thank you ever so much for allowing us to see our old school. [It] looks amazing,” she wrote on Facebook.
Gail McCoach, a former Catholic Social Services employee and a 1961 graduate of the school, also thanked CHCS on social media for the opportunity to visit.
In May 2018, the St. Joseph Parish complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places and the designs by Kramer + Marks Architects preserves the historic elements of the structures.
Following historical preservation guidelines to maintain this designation, original features incorporated include all doors; terrazzo floors; transom windows; and original hardwood floors in select apartments.
Several chalkboards made with original wood from the building also serve as a nod to the school’s history. The bell tower was preserved and the bell was fixed – now ringing at noon and 6:00 p.m. every day.
Hannah Terry, who serves on the CHCS Project Development Team and is the Social Service Care Manager at St. Joseph Place, assisted guests on the first floor of the annex building during the open house.
She noted many of the former students expressed how appreciative they were “that we had kept the green tile on the walls” in what was once the 7th grade hallway.
“It was so meaningful to hear former students and parents of Saint Joseph’s School reminisce on their happy school memories,” Terry added.
Along with 50 one-bedroom apartment units, the St. Joseph’s Place transformation features a community room, food cupboard, laundry, lounges, and on-site social services for seniors – a staple of CHCS’ housing communities.
Caroline Sugden, Director of Social Services for CHCS, said the feedback from the open house was positive. She pointed to the fact that the community was particularly excited about “the reuse of the building and its beautiful transformation.”
“CHCS preserved a church asset through the development of St. Joseph Place and is able to continue the mission of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by caring for the most vulnerable,” she added.
St. Joseph Place is on schedule to open in mid-May. Those interested in learning more can visit www.humangood.org/st-joseph-place.
“The school clearly meant so much to the community,” said Terry.
“I was moved to hear visitors express that they were glad the school would live on in a positive way and that the renovations were beautiful.”
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