'So many memories': 2-alarm fire destroys defunct St. Leo's Church in Tacony

Officials are working to discover what sparked a 2-alarm blaze that gutted a former church and neighborhood landmark Sunday afternoon in Tacony. 

Firefighters were called to the former St. Leo's Church on the 6600 block of Keystone Street around 5 p.m. 

Large flames engulfed the century-old building which sent thick black smoke billowing high enough into the air to be noticed on I-95.

The Philadelphia Fire Department said the fire was upgraded to 2-alarms shortly after crews arrived. The fire was placed under control around 7:30 p.m. No injuries were reported.

"It’s been an icon in this community. You drive up Unruh Street and as soon as you get to a certain point, you see that steeple hitting you right in the face," explained resident Diane Gerace.

SKYFOX was overhead Monday afternoon as crews began knocking down front wall of the church.

"With that wrecking ball, the first brick went down and turned around and saw the sadness in people’s eyes. I could see people filling up, because it’s part of history," stated Councilman Bobby Henon. 

Archdiocese of Philadelphia Chief Communications Officer Kenneth A. Gavin told FOX 29 that St. Leo's merged with Our Lady of Consolation Parish in 2013 and has not been used for regular mass celebrations for a long time.

The building, built in 1884 and placed on the Historic Register was sold recently. Although it hasn’t been used as a worship site since 2019, many say it holds countless memories.

"I will always consider myself a parishioner of St. Leo’s and it’s like losing part of your life. Certainly a significant part of your childhood and just so many memories here," Gerace remarked.



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