Saint Michael the Archangel Russian Orthodox Church, a member of the United States Diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate, was founded on November 28, 1909 in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia. It was given its present name and held its first Parish Council elections in 1910. The organizing impetus was from Russian, Galician, and Carpatho-Russian populations, many of whom had an Austrian heritage. The founding members of the new parish were clearly Orthodox in background, while others had been within the Western Catholic jurisdiction.
The first Divine Liturgy in the newly organized Church was celebrated during the last week of December,1909. In late 1922, the parishioners learned that their property had to be sold to the City of Philadelphia to accommodate the widening of the street as a more efficient east-west traffic thoroughfare.
The Church was able to purchase its present house of worship in the Spring of 1923. The large structure on the corner of 4th and Fairmount, was built in 1873 as the Salem German Reformed Church. The interior underwent extensive redesign in the tradition of Russian Orthodoxy. The additional acquisition of twin houses on the property, in the Federal style, now converted into a single unit, houses the Sunday School, the Archives Collection, the Church Library, and the Conference Room.
The Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia, the Northeast quadrant surrounding Center City and approaching the banks of the Delaware River, was until the years immediately following World War II a bustling manufacturing and industrial area. It is now a renewed area, a mix of homes and small businesses. Many Russian immigrants early were attracted to Northern Liberties due to the work opportunities and the established presence of relatives and friends. Thus, historically, the contribution of the Russians to this interesting and increasingly vibrant section of Philadelphia has been highly significant. The Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association plays an active role in monitoring and encouraging developments in the area and in initiating community-based social policy and programs.
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