Father Pitt

Why should the beautiful die?


Deutsche Evangelische Lutherische St. Paulus Kirche, Uptown

St. Paul’s Lutheran

Since he ran across that article marveling at a church with the sanctuary upstairs, old Pa Pitt has been inspired to make a special study of these churches. Don’t be surprised to see more of them as Father Pitt accumulates the pictures.

St. Paul’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church was built in 1872. Since Uptown was a dense rowhouse neighborhood, the church had a tiny lot, and resorted to the common expedient of putting the sanctuary on the second floor. Today it is home to the Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship, and we caught it in the middle of some spiffing up.

We might point out that this church is marked on an 1882 map as “Dutch Lutheran Church.” When misinformed pedants insist on calling East Allegheny “Deutschtown” (a pedantry that is flat-out wrong and makes old Pa Pitt’s skin crawl every time he hears it), you can point out that “Dutch” was the usual word for “German,” and English-speakers in Pittsburgh commonly referred to the Germans as “Dutch” even as late as the 1880s.

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2 responses to “Deutsche Evangelische Lutherische St. Paulus Kirche, Uptown”

  1. Forgive me if my question was deleted for cause from your previous post, but I’m hoping that Father Pitt might have some idea as to why this layout was used on the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church just off the Eighty Four exit of Rt 70.

    It is certainly not a constrained site. Nor is it in a flood zone (another explanation that I’ve heard for such churches). I drove past this church several times a week when I was young and always wondered about it.

    Are there any other common reasons for such a design?

    • First of all, apologies for the missing comments. They were snagged by the occasionally cranky spam-blocking algorithm, which we put up with because it catches all the spam without sending any data to an outside server run by North Korean hackers. The price we pay for your privacy is having to be a little vigilant about the spam folder. The comments have been restored.

      Father Pitt does not know the reason for Emmanuel Presbyterian, but he can imagine several.

      1. It is possible that the congregation owned only a small lot. If the church replaced an earlier smaller building, the lot might have seemed quite roomy when the congregation first assembled; decades later, when it had grown, their new church might have filled the whole lot. Property lines are invisible but powerful, especially if your neighbor is a Methodist and won’t budge.

      2. Even on a large lot, building straight up is cheaper. For the same reason, farmhouses are often two storeys when they would have plenty of room to spread out: it is simply more efficient to add the extra rooms upstairs.

      3. Cultural tradition is an even more likely explanation in this case. Emmanuel is a very elaborate brick church for a rural community. Clearly the congregation was prosperous. It was obviously designed by, if not an architect, then at least an experienced church-builder, and it was obviously designed on almost exactly the same plan as the urban churches. Churches with the sanctuary upstairs are common in the Mon Valley towns, where dense settlement is a sufficient explanation. Likewise in Pittsburgh. An experienced builder from the town (whichever town it was) who spent his whole career building such churches would naturally assume that this was the way churches were built. Even if he didn’t, the congregation might. Congregations want a church building that follows what they think the proper tradition for a church is. If all the substantial brick churches they have seen have a social hall downstairs and the sanctuary upstairs, then that is the proper way to build a church, and it must be done that way.

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