Palewski noted that when the Philadelphia Archdiocese vacated the church in 1995, it removed the altar and stained-glass windows. But the other elements of the interior – the pews, carved woodwork, and ornate plaster with decorative painting -- remained intact.
The interior was still in that condition in spring 2009, when a Philadelphia art dealer, Ellen Schicktanz proposed buying the building and setting up an art gallery, Palewski said. “But by the time Mrs. Schicktanz was given access to the site a few months later, most of the interior elements had been destroyed. The historic details that attracted her to the space were gone, and so was her interest in buying the church,” Palewski said.
At the time, Ellen Schicktanz owned an art gallery at 16th and Ritner Streets but was looking for space to expand, her husband Bill explained. They saw photos of the church taken by the Community Design Collaborative in 2007 that showed the interior still intact. Ellen Schicktanz hired an architect, consulted an appraiser, and contacted Lukach to take a look at the building. “Ellen was genuinely interested in the church,” Bill Schicktanz said.
But when Luckach brought them inside, “they were in the process of the demolition of the interior,” Bill Schicktanz said. Detailed plaster ornamentation on the columns had been removed, pieces of marble and wood flooring had been taken up and stacked. “It was apparently a salvage job. Everything had been taken apart,” Bill Schicktanz said.
“At one time it may have been economically feasible” to restore the church, he said. “If the interior had been kept intact, I think it would have been usable for an adaptive reuse. When we went through and saw the deplorable condition, there was nothing worth preserving.