A Dream Come True Hand

A church, an award, and a story

We could just promote True Hand, their grand re-opening this month, and their award from the Preservation Alliance, but this is so much more than that! This is the ultimate Forever Home story. While people often romanticize about buying a church and converting it to fit their needs, Mike and Josie actually did it!  This is not always the end result, but this project started with good karma. Our amazing friends/clients/Philly small business owners, Mike and Josie, literally saved this 150 year old church from being torn down and made into condos. Now it is their new residence and the new home of Mike’s company, True Hand, a beautiful and private studio for Custom Tattoos by-Appointment and Design with 20 years of experience. Their artists are some of the best in the country, and their design clients include us, Love City, Jinxed, Prohibition Tap Room, and so many more.


TRUE HAND GRAND RE-OPENING / April 26, 2PM – 10PM / April 27 11AM – 7PM & After Party 8PM – 10PM

Stop by 2345 E Susquehanna Ave in Fishtown for a tattoo event and after party to celebrate True Hand’s new home and 6 years in operation. Check out the studio, collect a new tattoo from one of 35+ amazing and talented tattooers from around the country, or come for the after party. More on their site, truehandsociety.com


This Fishtown church project has been recognized by the Preservation Alliance as one of the 2019 Grand Jury Award Winners!

We are honored to have been a part of this project! Congratulations to True Hand, as well as the rest of the project team, including M&T Bank, Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel, Philly Home Girls, PIDC, United Makers.

For 25 years, the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia has honored the individuals, organizations, public agencies, and corporations throughout our region who’ve made outstanding contributions to the preservation of architectural and cultural heritage. Other winners this year include The Philadelphia Metropolitan Opera House, Cherry Street Pier, and the Fairmount Water Works William Rush Sculpture.


We’re not crying, you’re crying. While standing in a crowded zoning meeting at Fishtown Rec in 2017, the announced voting results for two variances at 2345-9 E Susquehanna. As we remember it, the crowd erupted with cheers. It was 70-4 for approval. If you’ve been to one of these meetings, you know this landslide is NOT the norm. Mike and Josie’s dreams of converting a 150 year old church into their home and business space were coming true.

A few months earlier, The Church of the Living Word was on the market. Although the original church was built in 1983, it wasn’t grated historical designation as attempted by the owners. While on the market, nothing was protecting it from developers purchasing it and tearing it down. The short version is another buyer went under contract and it fell through. That’s when Josie and Mike knew it was fate. They immediately called Jeanne to see the property.

Once they purchased the property, they needed two variances from the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) to make it their home and a place for True Hand: 1) to allow multiple uses in one structure and 2) to allow “body art service.” Two variances that are usually not well accepted in a residential neighborhood. Before you can even apply for a permit for renovations, you need neighbors’ approval, community approval, and final approval from the ZBA. Mike and Josie started canvassing the block,  offering neighbors tours of the inside while sharing their plans. The neighbors approved it unanimously, community favorably, and then ZBA put their approved stamp on it.

Everyone could feel their authenticity in preserving the architectural significance of the building. We’ll have to save the long version for a home story, but True Hand now sits in the sanctuary. Partition walls were made from the former stage, windows that were boarded up are now open, and many original details remain.


In 1886, The Fifth Reformed Dutch Church built an addition, the facade that still stands today, onto their existing structure. The original structure in 1863 was build with a Georgian and/or Greek Revival style of architecture. The addition had it’s own Gothic style with details like two-story towers with truncated roofs and pointed-arch doorways. You can see many of these details in the listing photos from 2017. Or check it out in person at True Hand’s Grand Re-opening next weekend.

Pictures from the MLS listing in 2016