St. Augustine Catholic Church (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.)

St. Augustine Catholic Church

The historic and pretty ornate St. Augustine Catholic  Church (also called Olde St. Augustine’s), built to replace the Old St. Augustine Church (the first Order of Hermits of St. Augustine church founded in the United States) which was completed in 1801 and burned down in the anti-Catholic Philadelphia Nativist Riots on May 8, 1844  (all that remained was the back wall of the altar), was designed by architect  Napoleon LeBrun who also designed Philadelphia landmarks as the Academy of Music (eventual home of the Philadelphia Orchestra) and the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul.

The church’s Palladian-style facade

The present church, whose cornerstone was laid on May 27, 1847, was completed in December 1848 and consecrated by Bishop Francis Kenrick and Archbishop John Hughes who presided over High Mass on November 5, 1848.

The main entrance

In 1922, the altar area underwent significant restoration and change, the vestibule of the church was changed significantly and stairs were put in when 4th Street was excavated to pass under the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. The nave of the church is original. The color in the brick facade of the church indicates where the original church brick ends and where the 1922 brick begins. On June 15, 1976, the church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The magnificent interior

On December 1992, a severe storm severely damaged the church’s steeple whose debris fell onto the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, closing for three days. The damaged steeple had to be disassembled and removed. A 50-ft. chasm opened in the church roof caused the priceless painting and murals inside to suffer water damage. On October 18, 1995, a new steeple was erected.

Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) meets the scared Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) inside the church in The Sixth Sense

The interior and exterior of St. Augustine’s Church was featured in the 1999 M. Night Shyamalan spooky thriller The Sixth Sense (where Bruce Willis, as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, and Haley Joel Osment, as Cole Sear, meet for the first time) and the 2007 action movie Shooter  (in which the church’s bell tower figures in an assassination plot).

The Shooter

This church is the parish of choice of many Filipino-American Catholics (who increased the congregation’s numbers in the 1990s) from Philadelphia, the city’s suburbs and the tri-state area (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware). In fact, on January 11, 1992, an exact replica of Santo Niño de Cebú was installed and dedicated here and Filipinos have held a special mass and festivals (also called Sinulog) for the Santo Niño, making it the National Shrine for devotion to Santo Nino in North America.

This Palladian-style (an Italian-Renaissance variant) church, with its non-cruciform plan, has a flat, decorated roof, semicircular arched window, an enormous cleaving balcony and two sets of stained glass windows, each dedicated to a saint. The impressive, ornate foyer, though lower than the church (you need to take another set of stairs to go up into the church), is treated like a part of the interior.

The main arched altar, framed by an archway supported by brown Corinthian columns flanked by flying angels, consists of white marble with shafts of Mexican onyx bordering the tabernacle. Behind the altar is a Crucifixion tableau, painted by Hans Hansen in 1926, crowned by the words “The Lord Seeth.” Above it sits a domed skylight.  The wrap-around, 3-sided gallery essentially divides the space vertically in half.

The main altar

The beautiful ceiling frescoes, depicting scenes from “St. Augustine in Glory,” as well as murals on either side of the altar were painted by Philip Costaggini (who painted part of the frieze on the rotunda of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.) in 1884 and are the oldest in any church in America.

Statue of St. Nicholas Tolentine at the ornate foyer

Statue of St. Thomas of Villanova

St. Augustine Catholic Church: 243 North Lawrence St., PhiladelphiaPennsylvania 19106, United States.  Tel: +1 215-627-1838. Fax: 215-627-3911. E-mail:  Website: Mass schedules: Mondays – Fridays: 12:05 PM (10 AM during legal holidays), Saturdays (Vigil – 5:15 PM) and Sundays (9 AM, 11 AM and 7 PM). Novena prayers to Santo Nino are held after the 11 AM Sunday Mass. Open Mondays to Fridays, 9 AM to 5 PM; weekends, 9 AM to the conclusion of the evening masses.

30th Street Station (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.)

30th Street Station

The 52,000 m² (562,000 ft²) 30th Street Station, the main railroad station in Philadelphia and one of the seven stations in Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority‘s (SEPTA) Center City fare zone, sits across from the former United States Post Office-Main Branch. A major stop on Amtrak‘s (National Railroad Passenger Corporation) Northeast and Keystone Corridors, it is Amtrak’s 3rd-busiest station and the busiest of the 24 stations served in Pennsylvania. On an average day in 2013, about 11,300 people boarded or left trains in Philadelphia, nearly twice as many as in the rest of the Pennsylvania stations combined. This was to be our entry point to Philadelphia (from New York City) and exit point from Philadelphia to Baltimore (Maryland).

The main concourse

Originally known as the Pennsylvania Station–30th Street (in accord with the naming style of other Pennsylvania Stations), the enormous, steel-framed structure was designed by the Chicago architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White (the successor to D.H. Burnham & Company). Construction began in 1927 and the station opened in 1933, starting with two platform tracks.

The author and son Jandy at the waiting area

From 1988-1991, the building was restored and renovated, at a cost of US$75 million,  by Dan Peter Kopple & Associates, with updated retail amenities added including several shops, a large food court, car rental facilities, Saxby’s CoffeeDunkin’ Donuts, both in the South Arcade and South Concourse, and others.

Dunkin’ Donut outlet

Above the passenger areas, 280,000 sq. ft. of office space was modernized to house approximately 1,100 Amtrak employees.  The former mail handling facility was converted into an underground parking garage. The 30th Street Station is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Train Schedule Display Board

The building’s architecturally interesting exterior, an adaptation and transformation of Neo-Classical elements into a more modern, streamlined Art Deco architectural style, has a pair of soaring, columned porte-cocheres on the west and east façade, its best known features.

Waiting Area

The cavernous, 290 by 135 ft. main passenger concourse, notable for its stylistic and functional elements, has ornate Art Deco décor, with a vast waiting room faced with travertine and a soaring  coffered ceiling, painted gold, red and cream, with beautiful chandeliers.

Ticket offices

Works of art are located throughout the building. Prominently displayed within the waiting area is the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial, sculpted in 1950 by Walker Hancock. Honoring 1,307 Pennsylvania Railroad employees (listed in alphabetical order on the four sides of the base of that sculpture) killed in World War II (out of the more than 54,000 who served), it consists of a bronze statue of the archangel Michael lifting the body of a dead soldier out of the flames of war.

Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial

The Spirit of Transportation, a bas relief sculpture of Karl Bitter, was executed in 1895 and originally placed in the waiting room of Broad Street Station, Philadelphia. On January, 1955, it was moved to current site in the North Waiting Room. The Spirit of Transportation is represented in triumphal procession of progress. It features a central female figure sitting in a horse-drawn carriage, while children cradle models of a steamship, steam locomotive and dirigible, a prophetic vision of a mode of transportation to come.

Spirit of Transportation bas-relief sculpture

The station was featured in the 1981 film Blow Out, the 1983 film Trading Places, the 1985 film Witness, the 2000 film Unbreakable, the 2010 video game Heavy RainAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 Episode 7, and the 2015 film The Visit. It is within walking distance of various attractions in West Philadelphia, notably the University of PennsylvaniaDrexel University, and the University City Science Center, all in University City. 

Kyle, Grace, Cheska and Jandy waiting for our train to Baltimore at the train platform

30th Street Station: 2955 Market Street, PhiladelphiaPennsylvaniaUnited States