St. Agnes-St.John's Nepomucene Roman Catholic Church

St. Agnes-St. John's Nepomucene Roman Catholic Church. Image provided by Historical Society of Pennsylvania

4th and Brown

Although Philadelphia's Slovakian community was small (numbering only about 2,000 by 1910), it dispersed all across the city, clustering according to regional affinities carried over from Europe. In each settlement, Slovaks gathered together in just a few blocks, usually surrounded by other, larger immigrant populations such as Poles, Italians, Irish, and Slavs. Northern Liberties' Slovaks were primarily from western Slovakia (northern Hungary), and many practiced the wire-working craft near Girard Avenue. These Slovaks initially attended church at St. John's in Point Breeze, a primarily eastern Slovakian parish. Northern Liberties' western Slovaks lobbied for their own parish in Northern Liberties, and St. Agnes opened in 1907. As the decades wore on, regional differences were diluted and a Slovakian-American identity adopted; St. John's and St. Agnes consolidated in 1980. The engraving on the church's façade reads: "for the faithful of Slovak heritage in Philadelphia."

Much like Italian immigrants, the people who came to be known as Slovaks did not develop a pan-Slovakian national identity until coming to America. An independent Slovakia did not yet exist, and Slovak immigrants identified themselves more by their native region or village in upper Hungary or other parts of the European Hapsburg Empire. Their regional affiliation determined their settlement pattern in Philadelphia. Although scattered across Philadelphia, a few distinct Slovak enclaves emerged in Point Breeze (South Philadelphia), Nicetown (North Philadelphia), and in two neighborhoods of Northern Liberties.