The Tacony Baptist Church is one of the oldest religious buildings in the neighborhood. It’s distinctive stone structure has been a staple of Disston Street since 1915! In fact, this stone portion of the building is famous for the unique materials used to build it. Also called the Grindstone Church, the Tacony Baptist Church is the only sandstone church built from industrial by-products in North America! The stones came from the Disston Saw Works, where they were used to sharpen saws. 2500 grindstones were repurposed by the church in 1915 to build an addition.
In 1915, Reverend Tryon, the pastor of the church noticed the discarded grindstones in the Disston yard and requested permission from Disston and Sons to use them in the construction of a new addition to the church. The Grindstone Church gained some fame during and after the addition’s construction. It was featured in the Ripley’s Believe it or Not news column and was host to the famous actor Richard B. Harrison! Today, it still stands as a reminder of Tacony’s industrial roots and the innovation of our community.
The church was officially opened for worship on May 21st, 1885. At the time of construction, it was reported to be the largest chapel undertaken by the Philadelphia Baptist City Mission. The bell of the church was originally cast in Philadelphia in 1860, it’s first recorded use was in Logan Square in 1864 before Henry Disston purchased it and had it installed in his factory on Front and Laurel Street. After the Laurel Street plant closed, the bell was kept in the Disston yard in Tacony until it was loaned to the Tacony Baptist Church during the 1915 renovations.
Now, the Tacony Baptist Church has been nominated for Historic Designation. On January 19th, 2022, the Committee on Historic Designation will meet to review the nomination. If the Grindstone Church is designated as an historic building, it will be recognized and awarded certain protections by the City of Philadelphia. The meeting will be held between 9:30am and 1pm and can be accessed via Zoom, those who recognize the significance of the Tacony Baptist Church are encouraged to join the meeting and speak in favor of historic designation. Let’s work together to maintain Tacony’s beautiful buildings!