Church responds to university renovations

Temple owns all but two plots west of Broad Street between Oxford and Jefferson streets.

Bishop Ernest Tookes, the pastor of The Original Apostolic Faith Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, was known as “the fruit man” for 49 years.

Tookes, who is not paid for his work at the church located on the 1500 block of North Broad Street, had a stand on 22nd and Diamond streets where he sold fruit to the people in the community.

For his eldest son, Fred Tookes, his family’s presence in North Philadelphia has withstood time, bad circumstances in the community and now, the university’s advances toward development on his block.

“See, we’ve always been here,” Fred Tookes said. “We’ve gone through all the trials and tribulations of the community. And we’re one family that didn’t get rich and move out. We stayed right in the community in which we serviced and lived in the community in which we serviced.”

The Temple News reported in 2013 that according to the Property of Assessment office records, the university owns all but two properties on the 1500 block – one of them being the Rite Aid located on North Broad Street. The other: The Original Apostolic Faith Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Temple purchased eight residential homes on the block between 1968 and 2001 for a total of $55,606. Temple now owns six properties on the block whose total market value is about $4.1 million, according to the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Property Assessment.

Jim Creedon, senior vice president of construction, facilities and operations, told The Temple News in 2013 that the site of Zavelle Bookstore, a property that was not owned by the university at the time, would not be demolished. The university recently bought the bookstore in Spring 2014, and demolition on the property is nearly complete.

Tookes said the owner of Zavelle was insistent on not leaving or selling his property unless the church would do the same thing.

“He told me he wasn’t selling out,” Fred Tookes said. “So what happened? What caused him to change his mind?”

The university has no immediate plans for using the property beyond planting grass and “keeping it, [and] all of the properties we own in the 1500 block, looking respectable,” Creedon said.

“They were very difficult to maintain [and] very expensive to maintain, so we just thought we should take them down, keep the area clean and neat, and down the road, we can sort out how to use the site,” Creedon added.

The properties will eventually be used for university purposes, Creedon said.

The Alfred E. Burk Mansion, on the 1500 block that sits right next to the church, was bought by Temple in 1970 and last used by the university in 1995 as a day care center.

In the last two weeks, renovations were made to the mansion, including painting the windows, removing boards from the windows, landscaping and adding lighting and interior ventilation systems, Creedon said. There is no immediate plan for a full-scale renovation.

“That’s just to make it look better and to add to the neighborhood so it doesn’t look like an abandoned building,” Creedon said. There are no immediate plans to utilize the space.

Fred Tookes said the church has been in contact with Temple about the properties on the 1500 block, but added that he is insistent on keeping the legacy of his family alive in the community and staying on Broad Street.

“No one is going to force us out,” Tookes said. “Why force liable businesses out?”

Emily Rolen can be reached at and on twitter @Emily_Rolen


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