Where it All Began: The Academy in Philadelphia

A computer rendering by Joel Christian Glenn of the classroom on the first floor of the Cherry Street building.

June 25th | By Rev. Chris Barber 

Today, The Academy and Bryn Athyn go together like wigs and Swedenborg, but that hasn’t always been the case. The earliest days of the Academy of the New Church began in Philadelphia near where the Franklin Institute is today. It all began in a little building known today as the Cherry Street Temple.

rendering of building

Built in 1856 specifically for worshipping the Lord in a sanctuary upstairs and educating young people in the classroom downstairs, this building was the seedbed of our own Academy. The Boys School originally met in its classroom, the Girls School across the street in a private residence, and the Theological School around the corner in the home of founder Bishop Benade. The latter two buildings still stand, both private residences today. Sadly the old Cherry Street Church was demolished in 1922 or 1923, after being extensively remodeled to serve as a hospital when the Academy vacated in 1888.

Because of its importance to the story of the Academy and the General Church, I have had an interest in this building and have researched it off and on for the last 10 years. It was my dream to build a model of what originally was there, but it wasn’t until recently that I was able to find detailed descriptions of the interior, including dimensions and construction techniques.

Working closely with Boys School alumnus Rev. Joel Glenn (c/o 2007), we were able to plan out a highly faithful-to-the-inch 3D computer rendered model of the Cherry Street building. Would you like to step into our history? Take a look at where it all began? Hop over to the Glencairn Museum website where you can watch a video showing the building recreated, see more pictures, and read an article I wrote to explore its history and showcase artifacts from the building (tinyurl.com/CherryStreetTemple).