Father Pitt

Why should the beautiful die?

St. Mark’s School, McKees Rocks Bottoms

St. Mark’s School

This is a Catholic school with more than the usual touch of whimsy. Old Pa Pitt does not yet know the architect, but whoever it was decided to make a school that would strike its pupils as something out of a fairy tale. [Update: We have found that the architects were the well-known Link, Weber & Bowers, “Link” being A. F. Link and “Weber” being Edward Weber.1] It is sadly vacant and decaying right now, although at least the grounds are kept. The cornerstone tells us that the building was begun in 1928:


Since old Pa Pitt considers this school endangered, he has many pictures to show you, so the rest will be behind a “read more” link to avoid cluttering the front page for a week.

Let us begin with the tower clock, which is a work of art in itself.


We can take a closer look at those four reliefs:

Jesus enthroned

Every day begins and ends with Christ the King.

Girl with book

Nine o’clock: time for school.

Runner and flag

Three o’clock: afterschool sports.

Lux et veritas

Six o’clock: Lux et veritas, the Light and the Truth.

A curious assortment of faces decorates the top of the tower:

Really grotesque face
Another grotesque face
Face with crown from the side
Face from the side
Grotesque face from the side
Face with crown

Father Pitt does not know who created these faces, but he would not be surprised to find that it was the same sculptor who decorated the Church of the Assumption in Bellevue.

Gate and entrance

Coming in this gate and entrance for the first time must have felt like entering a fairy castle. The second time and subsequent times probably just felt like going to school, but perhaps something of that first impression lingered.

Inscription over the door: St. Mark’s School

There is the lion of St. Mark, with his book open to the first two words of his Gospel: Initium evangelii…

Angel with child

This statue greeted pupils as they passed by on the sidewalk.

Statue and convent

The part of the building behind the statue looks as though it might have been the convent for the sisters who taught at the school. Perhaps a former parishioner can confirm or correct our speculation.

Pelican relief

A pelican, traditional symbol of Christ because of the legend that the pelican fed her young with her own blood. The inscription reads “Cor Jesu, fornax ardens caritatis”—“The heart of Jesus, a blazing furnace of love”—from the traditional Litany of the Sacred Heart.

St. Mark’s School

What is to be done with this splendid building? Probably nothing. Demolition is its allotted destiny. But if we do not accept the doctrine of predestination, we may be permitted to pray for a miracle.

  1. Source: The Charette, March, 1928: “435. Architect: Link-Weber & Bowers, 407 N. Craig Street, Pittsburgh, Pa. Owner: St. Mark’s R. C. Congregation. Title: School and Convent Building. Location: McKees Rocks. Pa. Approximate size: Convent three stories; School two stories; Metal joist; concrete floor construction; brick and hollow tile; limestone trim. Bids close March 9, 4 P.M.” ↩︎

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