Image problems: Sacred Heart Catholic Church at Fillmore and Fell streets was built in the late 19th century. The City expressed concern about the building’s appearance after the stained-glass windows were removed. (Cindy Chew/The Examiner)
A shuttered Alamo Square church continued its spiral into cultural oblivion when new owners removed stained-glass windows, an organ and other religious items.
The late-19th-century church at Fillmore and Fell streets was closed by the San Francisco Archdiocese in 2004 and sold. The contents of Sacred Heart Catholic Church sat idle until they were removed during the past two weeks.
The items, which include an altar containing certified fragments of saint bone, will be sold to benefit the Megan Furth Catholic Academy, according to board member Charles Gagan.
The academy was formed early last decade when the grammar schools operating at St. Dominic’s and Sacred Heart Catholic churches merged after the archdiocese yanked both schools’ funding. The church was purchased from the archdiocese and became property of the Megan Furth Catholic Academy, which has let it sit empty and unused.
The academy was cited by building inspectors last week for violating The City’s building rules, which require a permit to be secured before fixed objects are removed from a structure.
Workers allegedly returned to the church last weekend to remove the items after city building inspectors issued two orders last week barring such activity, according to Department of Building Inspection Deputy Director Ed Sweeney.
“They went to work during the weekend, crated everything up and off-hauled it,” Sweeney said. “They took the altar, statues, pews, the organ, two windows.”
Of particular concern to The City is the removal of stained-glass windows because they were important features of the church’s facade, according to Sweeney.
Church owners say they were entitled to sell the property and Gagan said he secured a written agreement from a sales agent who specializes in trading religious antiquities that the items will be reused in Catholic Church settings.
On Tuesday, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi called on the city attorney to investigate the “stripping” of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
“I want to make sure that we escalate this matter to ensure that work stops and stops immediately,” Mirkarimi told board colleagues this week.
“I think it’s really unfortunate and totally confusing that the supervisor is more interested in church artifacts than he is in helping underserved students from his district,” Gagan said.
The abandoned church’s future is uncertain, but Megan Furth Catholic Academy might relocate to the site or sell the building.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church
Gutted: June 2010
Exterior: Blend of Lombard and Classical Revival styles
Building material: Brick and terra cotta
Interior: Formerly embellished with marble altars, stained glass and murals
Architect: T.J. Welsh