Please Bear With Our Website Difficulties!

Hello Calvary Community! We are having a series of problems with our website, which we are working on fixing! In the meantime, you may have trouble accessing important parts of the site.

As always, you can email or call 215-724-1702 with any questions about the Center (including rental information).

Our calendar can be accessed in Google Calendar here.

We hope to have the full site back up and running soon!

Elevator Project Update

There is much for the whole community to celebrate at Calvary Center this holiday season!

Construction has finally started on the Calvary Center elevator!! A new ground level entrance will be constructed just to the right of the tower where wheelchairs can enter the building without having to negotiate ANY inclines or declines, thus eliminating the need for unsightly ramps on the side of the building. From an entrance vestibule, the elevator can take visitors up to the main floor, or down to the lower level, which will allow wheelchair access to all areas of the building except the auditorium balconies and the two board rooms on the upper level!! This has been a long time coming and has been an unaddressed need of all the building user groups from the inception of the center. The Center is thrilled that Linford Martin, member of WPMF and neighborhood resident and celebrated for what he has accomplished in the neighborhood with the development of the Firehouse and Cedarworks, is acting as contractor for the project. Our time lines indicate that the project will be completed by spring of 2016.

So that we could create a safer and more comfortable entrance vestibule, the original footprint of the elevator was moved further into the interior, which required taking space from the black box theater, so intrusive that it required removal of the bank of seating on the western side of the theater. This necessitated a redesign of the theater space, but since the Children’s Community School’s move to new larger quarters, it gave us the opportunity to redesign the entire lower level area behind the gymnasium/fellowship hall. We have been working on that design, which we hope to construct immediately after the completion of the elevator project. This redesign will work much better with the building’s heating system, allowing for much better circulation of the heat in the interior of the lower level.

Beyond that, Calvary Center is finally at the point where we can start on restoration of the most important art works in the building, the three story Tiffany windows and the stained glass dome in the main auditorium. We hope to in 2016 restore those stained glass masterpieces and to be able to light them at night properly, elevating the corner of 48th and Baltimore to its rightful place as one of the most beautifully preserved Victorian crossroads in all Philadelphia, something to take people’s breath away when they drive by! Imagine what a little well-focused lighting could do on warm summer nights at that corner, or imagine it all tastefully decorated for the Christmas season!

Also, the Center has formed a team from Calvary Methodist, West Philly Mennonite, and Kol Tzedek, to work on plans for making the old Victorian hulk of a building GREEN! The group is led by Tim Emmett-Rardin, member of Calvary UMC and neighborhood resident. The group has been preparing for an energy audit of the Calvary building and Curio House (the parsonage). The goal is to serve as a role model in greening old structures and to do our part to combat global warming, not to mention save some money!

Be sure to join us for the annual Christmas jazz concert on Sunday, December 20, for a real holiday treat, led by Greg Scott, Calvary UMC’s genius music director, featuring the big band sound of the Big Push, and a real treat to all in the know who have been coming for years! All proceeds go directly to charity right here in our neighborhood.


Restoration and Renovation Accomplishments, 2008-2010

Much work has been done at Calvary Center in the past two years. To wit:
• The heating system was rehabilitated in its entirety at a total cost of over $30,000.
• A hall was built across the main floor, enabling people to pass inside the building from Baltimore Avenue to the 48th Street entrances without having to go through the main auditorium or the chapel. This hall was built also to support the sagging central balcony in the main auditorium, and to create a better sound barrier between the chapel and the main auditorium as part of our soundproofing strategy.
• The large modern stage was built in the main auditorium.
• The central aisle of pews were cushioned in the main auditorium.
• Three new exterior lighted signs were installed, one for the 48th Street Bulletin Board, one listing worship times for all the congregations on Baltimore Avenue, and a much improved marquee for Curio Theatre.
• Ten missing leaded glass windows were replaced with replicas.
• $18,000 was spent on roof repairs.
• Flooring and lighting were installed in the second floor board room on the 48th Street side.
• Sidewalk repairs on Baltimore Avenue were completed.
• A new nursery was constructed in the lower level.
• A new children’s toilet and sink were installed on the lower level.
• Renovations and security measures were completed for launching the Children’s Community School.
• A new comprehensive fire alarm system was installed and the emergency exit signs updated.
• The building’s electrical system was upgraded to three phase, to support installation of an elevator and additional theater lighting, and future air conditioning, at a cost of $140,000.

Sanctuary Success!

The year 2008 has already been a momentous one for the Calvary Center for Culture and Community and the Curio Theatre Company. The long-sought goal to have the beautiful main auditorium open to the public was finally met in February when Curio Theatre performed the Odyssey in that space, the first real use of that space in thirty-five years!! That play was ranked the third best play of the entire 2007-2008 Philadelphia theater season by theater critic R.B. Strauss of the Philadelphia Weekly Press!

Although renovations and restorations had only just begun and temporary lighting had to be set up, audiences were able to watch two productions of Curio’s 2007/2008 season (The Odyssey & What the Butler Saw) fully staged in the Sanctuary. Curio and Calvary now can boast that they have a 30’ X 30’ stage with ample offstage space, 80 lighting instruments and a new lighting control system.

The transformation of the Sanctuary from crumbling store room to theater space did not happen by magic. None of it was possible without exceptional planning (especially by Paul Kuhn) and the enormous help of over forty volunteers working tirelessly over a three month span. These volunteers helped clear the Sanctuary of three decades worth of debris which was generously hauled away by the University City District.

Volunteers also carried in three tractor trailer loads of new materials, resituated over twenty pews, and helped to build our enormous stage. Though Curio Theatre invested close to $30,000 for the effort, the total cost of rehabilitating the space would well have exceeded $100,000 but for the generous donation of highly skilled (and free!) volunteer labor.

The Calvary Center for Culture and Community invested time and money into the project as well. Over $14,000 was invested to insulate the enormous attic and increase energy efficiency and soundproofing in the wall between the Chapel and the Sanctuary. Over $11,000 was invested to upgrade the electrical system and lighting. Many members of the CCCC board also volunteered their time with the renovation project work.

Though it wasn’t deemed necessary by the structural engineer, Curio wanted to give the public the added sense of security by putting a safety net over the audience. Most, if not all, of the plaster damage in the Sanctuary occurred from a leaking roof that was fixed when CCCC put a new roof on the building that stopped further deterioration of the ceiling. But anyone who saw the sanctuary pews covered in plaster dust might feel a bit worried sitting on a pew for long. The new safety net is capable of catching up to three tons of debris.

A local architect and Board member, John Holland, was instrumental in getting the building to its current state of restoration. John put in countless amounts of time and energy bringing in consultants, coordinating construction projects, generating drawings and much more.

After many years of helping CCCC, John recently accepted a job in Dubai. John and his family will be missed in the community.

We are very fortunate, however, to have another local architect, Richard Olaya, join us. Richard will be working with us to help make Calvary ADA compliant and to help Curio and Calvary realize the future work needed to make the old sanctuary space into a premier venue for the performing arts. In the few weeks that Richard has offered his assistance he has already shown an amazing vision and understanding about the complexity of issues involved with transforming a 100 year old church space for use by performing arts in the 21st century.

A committee has been planning and brainstorming for several months to devise a plan to create a state-of-the-art space for the performing arts while respecting the art and architectural grandeur of the magnificent space which will house it. Acoustical curtains are being installed and testing is ongoing to produce total sound isolation between the chapel and sanctuary space, so that both spaces can be used simultaneously. This will nearly double the capacity for performing arts at Calvary Center. Interest has been expressed in bringing a short classical music series here, and we want to add the capability to show films, and extend the venue for city-wide festivals such as Philadelphia Fringe Festival and others.

The main auditorium (the newly opened Sanctuary) will be used for theater, concerts, film and more, with Curio’s performances the star attraction. Crossroads concerts and other smaller performances will continue to use the acoustically terrific smaller Chapel.

Richard Kirk, president of the CCCC board states, “We are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in bringing about vital changes at the corner of 48th and Baltimore.”

Thanks to the exceptional vision, the enormous community support, the countless hours from volunteers and from many organizations, the CCCC board, and the Calvary Trustees, and generous grants from many foundations, Calvary Center has become a vital locus for our larger community, something truly unique, fully functional as a sacred space, a community center, and a venue for the performing arts. And Baltimore Avenue is growing and beautifying all around us!

There is little time to rest on what we have done so far. There is still much to do to fully restore and renovate our wonderful space. After the main sanctuary auditorium is completely restored and the building becomes ADA accessible, CCCC will pursue greening efforts using solar energy and geothermal heating and cooling. All this in a building considered lost and beyond hope just a few short years ago!

Tax-deductible donations to support the building and activities of Calvary Center, are always welcomed and encouraged. Make your contribution here.

Fall 2007 Newsletter!

After exterior construction was complete in the fall of 2006, Calvary’s 48th Street gardens were nothing but mud and tank tracks from the big lifts.

But just look at the gardens now!

Many thanks to Michael Williams, the 48th Street neighbors, and University City Green, Calvary’s garden blooms again!

In fact, Calvary’s gardens were so pretty this summer that people were actually taking pictures!

Download or view the Fall 2007 edition of CCCC’s newsletter. Click here.

Centennial Gala a Huge Success!

The Calvary Centennial Gala was held September 16, 2006. It was a fundraiser, and a very successful one at that, but it also was, by all accounts, an evening which will long and fondly be remembered by the well over 200 who attended the affair.

The evening offered something, or several somethings, to please every palate. It was duly noted that no one had ever seen the community so dressed up for a party! For the serious minded, there was the announcement of the occasion itself, the beautiful centennial commemorative guide book souvenir, and the superlative opera recital by the neighborhood’s own incomparable Cecelia Chaisson, which took the audience in the dome-lit chapel by storm. But beyond the solemn side of the occasion, the gala was a party extraordinaire! Delicious gourmet food from many local restaurants delighted the senses of taste and smell, and a lively silent auction with some of the most exciting items auctioned off live created full-blown cacophony in the downstairs gym transformed by decoration into an elegant, romantic setting, and for those who needed a quieter venue, the outdoor scene was one of intimate conversations and laughter on the lawn, served up with amazing coctails and spirits at the bar (and off the premises!) To cap off the affair, the resident Curio Theatre’s improv comedy sent them home laughing!

It was a celebration for a magnificent building once thought lost but now being saved. But more than that, it was a celebration for a uniquely University City redevelopment experiment that has given new life to the building, not just as an ecumenical sacred space, but as a functioning community center and venue for culture and the arts as well, all under one vast roof. It was, truly, a celebration of the community, by the community and for the community, at its best.