Father Pitt

Why should the beautiful die?

Welsh Congregational Church, South Side

Welsh Congregational Church, South Side

We are going to use our imaginations here to bring the East Birmingham of a century and a half ago back to life.

Take a good look at this VFW hall. Now erase the belligerently patriotic mural. Then strip away the improvised vestibule at the end. Then take away the side entrance. Then unblock the windows along the side (old Pa Pitt does not know what demonic secret rituals the veterans practice that would be spoiled by natural light, but they seem to have an aversion to it).

What you will have left is a little old church building, probably from just after the Civil War. It appears on an 1872 map as “Welsh Cong. Ch.,” and so for many years after; but by 1923 it had been transferred to another congregation, and appears as a “Polish M. E. Ch.” (M. E. for Methodist Episcopal). At least half a dozen churches on the South Side were bought by East Europeans around the turn of the twentieth century. We might call it Nordic flight: people of northwestern European ancestry fled the South Side as undesirable East Europeans poured in.

Methodists were never a large segment of the Polish population, and at some point the church changed hands again, going out of the religion business entirely. But not much has really changed about the exterior. The outlines of a typical small middle-1800s church are clearly visible. It would be fairly easy and inexpensive to restore it to something like its original appearance, and—unlike large churches—small churches like this have many uses. If the Veterans of Foreign Wars are ever interested in selling, they should ask Father Pitt first.

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