St. Charles Borromeo Seminary: 100 Wynnewood Road, Wynnewood Constructed in 1866, expanded in 1928

St. Charles Borromeo Seminary: 100 Wynnewood Road, Wynnewood

Constructed in 1866, expanded in 1928

St Charles Borromeo

The 75-acre St. Charles Borromeo Seminary houses the oldest Catholic seminary within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  The property, which is located in Wynnewood, comprises a historic landscape and multiple historic buildings, objects, and structures.  Its historic, architectural, and cultural value cannot be overstated.  The seminary is the largest parcel in the eastern part of Lower Merion and is a visual gateway to the township from Philadelphia.  Its oldest building, which is located at the property’s highest point on the ‘upper side’ of the campus, was designed by Samuel Sloan in the Italianate style.  Sloan, one of the country’s most influential proponents of ‘picturesque’ architecture, began work on this building in 1866.  Development on the ‘lower side’ of the campus, which dates to 1928, includes the chapel and residential buildings commissioned to Paul Monaghan, a Philadelphian known for designing Catholic architecture.  Both areas of the campus are incorporated into a vast landscape that is framed by elaborate ornamental fencing and gates.

The Archdiocese’s recently-announced proposal to sell the entire campus will inevitably change the historic character of the seminary property.  Previous development plans, which proposed selling the lower side to a developer, but retaining the upper side for Seminary use, offered hope that at least part of the property would be maintained in its historic form.  The sale of the entire property, however, creates immeasurable concern for all of the historic assets on the 75-acre site; the historic buildings on the property have no demolition protections and future development of the property makes their viability uncertain.  The historic landscape of the seminary, which is crucial to both the property’s character and to the character of surrounding neighborhoods, also lacks protections to safeguard its integrity.  An ideal development plan for the site could include the adaptive reuse of the historic buildings and the preservation of the existing historic landscape.  If such a plan cannot be achieved, future development should be highly sensitive to and compatible with the property’s numerous historic resources and magnificent landscape.