Category: Churches

  • Oakmont Presbyterian Church

    Oakmont Presbyterian Church

    A typical corner-tower church in an adapted version of the Perpendicular Gothic style.

  • 43rd Street Presbyterian Church, Lawrenceville

    Front of the 43rd Street Presbyterian Church

    Built in 1883, this church now belongs to the New Bethel Baptist Church. It is typical of its era, but unusual in preserving its octagonal steeple.

    For some reason these pictures got lost in the piles of photographs old Pa Pitt is always stacking up here and there. They were taken in September of 2022.

    Date stone: Built A. D. 1883. 43. ST. Presbyterian Church.
    43rd Street Presbyterian Church
    Tower and steeple
    New Bethel Baptist Church

    Perhaps Father Pitt held off on publishing these pictures because he was debating whether he should do something about that jungle of utility cables. The cables won that debate.

  • First Presbyterian Church, Oakmont

    Tower of the church

    This church, built in 1895, is a fine example of what old Pa Pitt would call Pittsburgh Rundbogenstil, because he likes to say “Rundbogenstil.” Otherwise we would just have to call it “Romanesque,” and where’s the fun in that? It now belongs to Riverside Community Church.

    First Presbyterian Church
    Inscription: “First Presbyterian Church”
    Cornerstone with date: AD 1895
    Riverside Community Church
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.

    An old postcard shows us that little has changed about the building in more than a century.

    Postcard of Presby. Church, Oakmont, Pa.
    From the postcard collection of the Presbyterian Historical Society.
  • Oakmont Methodist Episcopal Church

    Oakmont Methodist Episcopal Church

    Perhaps a member of the congregation can help sort out the history of these two church buildings in Oakmont.

    Just this first one, which is still a United Methodist church, is complicated enough. It appears from construction listings to have been started under one architect and finished under another. The current form of the church is the work of Pittsburgh’s Chauncey W. Hodgdon, who drew the plans in 1914. That arcaded porch is a typical Hodgdon feature.

    The Construction Record, September 12, 1914: “Oakmont, Pa.—Architect C. W . Hodgdon, Penn building, Pittsburgh, has new plans for the superstructure of a one-story stone church for the First Methodist Episcopal Congregation on Fifth and Maryland street to be built at a cost of $30,000.”


    But the construction listings tell us that Hodgdon was responsible for the “superstructure”: apparently the foundations had been laid already under the supervision of the prolific New Castle architect William G. Eckles.

    The American Contractor, January 25, 1913: “Church: 1 sty. $30,000. Oakmont, Pa. Archt. Wm. G. Eckles, Lawrence Savings & Trust bldg., New Castle. Owner M. E. Church, Oakmont. Plans in progress; architect will be ready for bids March 1. Brick, stone trim, wood cornice, struct. iron, hardwood finish & floors, gas & electric fixtures.”

    Mr. Eckles was a successful and reliable architect who littered Western Pennsylvania with fine schools and churches, so old Pa Pitt has no explanation for why he did not finish this project. We note also that the budget seems to have gone up: under Eckles, it was to have been a brick church with stone and wood accents at $30,000; Hodgdon’s “superstructure” was budgeted at $30,000, which we presume did not include the foundations, and it was all stone.

    Around the corner is an older church whose date stone tells us it was the previous Oakmont Methodist Episcopal Church:

    [Older Oakmont M. E. Church

    Date Stone: Oakmont M. E. Church, 1892.

    This is also a slight mystery, because the date stone says 1892, but the building bears a plaque that says “Circa 1877.” (Many buildings in Oakmont bear date plaques, all with “circa,” probably under the common assumption that “circa” means “here comes a date.”) Father Pitt’s guess is that the tower was built after the church. The building is no longer a church: it is now something called “The High Spire.”

    Old Oakmont M. E. Church

    Cameras: Sony Alpha 3000; Nikon COOLPIX P100.

  • Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church, Manchester

    Allen Chapel A. M. E. Church

    A detailed history of Allen Chapel (PDF) was written by the late Carol Peterson with her usual thoroughness, so old Pa Pitt will only summarize very briefly. The building was put up by the Bethel English Lutheran Church in 1894, but that congregation outgrew it rapidly and built a new church (long gone) a few blocks away. In 1905 this building was bought by the African Methodist Episcopal congregation that worshiped here for the rest of the century. When that congregation moved, it kept the building as a youth ministry center.

    End of the building
    Perspective view
    Kodak EasyShare Z981.

    Map showing the location of the church.

  • St. Thomas Memorial Church, Oakmont

    St. Thomas Memorial Church

    The outsized corner tower of this Episcopal church defines the rich and splendid building, designed by R. Maurice Trimble and built in 1906. Old Pa Pitt is especially happy that the clock is keeping time, because it’s an extraordinary clock.

    Clock face
    St. Thomas Memorial Church

    Cameras: Sony Alpha 3000; Nikon COOLPIX P100.

  • St. Stanislaus Kostka Church and Rectory, Strip District

    West front of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church
    Utility cables? What utility cables?

    This beautiful Romanesque church was built ad majorem Dei gloriam (“to the greater glory of God”) in 1891. The architect was Frederick Sauer, who gave us many distinguished churches, as well as comfortable houses, practical commercial buildings, and the whimsical Sauer Buildings built with his own hands in his back yard. This is the mother church for Polish Catholics in Pittsburgh, and it has one of the most spectacular sites for a church in the city, sitting at the end of the long broad plaza of Smallman Street along the Pennsylvania Railroad produce terminal.

    Romanesque ornament
    A. D. 1891
    Slightly oblique view of the church

    The rectory is also a remarkable building, and still manages to convey much of its original impression in spite of the unfortunate glass-block infestation.

    Rectory in perspective view
    Fujifilm FinePix HS10.
  • Tabernacle Cosmopolitan Baptist Church, Mexican War Streets

    Tabernacle Cosmopolitan Baptist Church
    Composite of three photographs.

    Evening sun paints the front of one of our most interesting churches—interesting both architecturally and historically. Father Pitt will admit that he is ignorant of most of the history, but perhaps a member of the congregation can fill in the rest.

    The building originally belonged to a Presbyterian church; it was probably constructed in the 1890s. The Presbyterian congregation, however, did not last much more than twenty-five years; by 1923, the building is marked as “Tabernacle Cosmopolitan Baptist Ch. (Colored),” and it has remained in the hands of that congregation for more than a century. The congregation appears to have moved to this building from a smaller church in the East Street Valley.

    When we look at this building, the thing that immediately strikes us is that there ought to be more church on top of it. Here is where Father Pitt does not know the whole story.

    On the one hand, congregations would often build a foundation and roof it over just enough to make it serviceable until the money could be raised to complete the superstructure. We have seen that in the church-turned-firehouse in Beechview, for example, and it could have happened here.

    But, on the other hand, a 1943 cornerstone tells us that there was a disastrous fire just before Christmas in 1936.

    Cornerstone: “Tabernacle Baptist Church, Organized April 29, 1874; destroyed by fire Dec. 22, 1936; rebuilt by its members in 1943; dedicated Dec. 19, 1943; Rev. L. G. McLeod, Pastor”

    It’s clear that the front of the church dates from the 1890s; this Romanesque detail would have been not just out of fashion but impossible in 1943. It could be that a higher roofline was destroyed by the fire, and the resourceful congregation made use of what was still standing and finished it off into the church that stands today.

    The building as it stands is a very good neighbor on its street. It is similar in height to the rowhouses that line the rest of the street, and it sits against the sidewalk at the same setback.

    Tabernacle Cosmopolitan Baptist Church

    Some of the carved stone ornament has decayed, though we can still make out the lacey foliage it was intended to be.

    Sony Alpha 3000 with a 7Artisans 35mm f/1.4 lens.
  • Union Methodist Episcopal Church, Manchester

    Manhattan Street face of the Union Methodist Episcopal Church

    Barr & Moser were big names in the architecture of the up-and-coming city of Pittsburgh in the middle 1800s. This church, which opened in 1867, is one of their few surviving works. It is in some ways a typical Pittsburgh neighborhood church, with the sanctuary upstairs. But the three arches at the top of the Manhattan Street face of the building are anything but typical. Some replacement brick in the large center arch suggests that some decorative element decayed and was filled in, but even as the building stands now we can see how modern it must have looked in the time just after the Civil War.

    This picture took six separate photographs to render, but the result is the front of the church almost as the architects drew it.

    From the corner of Manhattan and Pennsylvania
    Cornerstone: New Zion Baptist Church

    The church has belonged to at least three different congregations. It was the Union Methodist Episcopal Church through the early 1900s; by 1923 it belonged to St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church; then in 1961—as this replacement cornerstone records—it was bought by the New Zion Baptist Church. The building does not appear to be in use right now, but we hope it can be maintained.

    Pennsylvania Avenue side of the church
    Union Methodist Episcopal Church
    Canon PowerShot SX150 IS.
  • Wesley Center AME Zion Church, Hill District

    Wesley Center AME Zion Church

    A striking modernist Gothic church whose clean lines are lovingly preserved by the congregation. Below, we add some bonus utility cables to prove that this is Pittsburgh.

    Wesley Center with utility cables