From earliest days, Christians prayed not toward an earthly city, e.g. like the temple in Jerusalem, or later toward Mecca like the Muslims, but faced an other worldly direction - East, the rising of the Sun/Son of God - the direction from which our Savior would return.
When our church was originally built, the property on which it was situated was not much wider than the church itself and the rectory adjacent to it. There was no parking lot or church property on which to park. A circular drive up to the front door or narthex on Ward Avenue was the only possible orientation, so our altar and people faced West for these many years.
Now that we have the opportunity to at least reconsider the issue because we have the parking lot, and as Benedict XVI reasserts the importance of the direction we face in prayer, our architect has been "facing east." I look forward to seeing the fruits of such reflection, especially since our church has a virtually unobstructed view onto the East horizon.