Built in 1911, this church served the Methodists until 1995. It is now home to the Lamb of God Church. This is a dated design for 1911; it would be interesting to know who the architect was, or whether the design was picked out of a book of stock patterns published ten or fifteen years before.
Here, by the way, is an example of how one develops an instinct for church architecture. Father Pitt did not know what congregation originally built this church, and how would one easily find out without some research? (One might have done the research, but it is always better to spare oneself trouble if one can.) The answer is by guess. “It looks Methodist,” Father Pitt thought to himself; and, with that clue, finding the information was easy.
It would be interesting to know who was the architect of this eclectic pile, and whether he was the nephew of the burgess. It might have been more attractive before the bricks and stone accents were painted the drabbest possible grey, but it was probably never a beautiful building. It has, however, grown some character with age, and old Pa Pitt is pleased that it has been fairly well preserved, except for the installation of some standard-size windows and doors in holes that are too big for them.
Many other Eastern churches have gilded or painted domes, but these domes are genuine made-in-Homestead stainless steel. Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church has its own Wikipedia article. It is a Ruthenian, or Rusyn, or Carpatho-Russian congregation that belongs to the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, a group of Ruthenian churches that left the Roman Catholic Church because the American bishops refused to allow them to keep their Eastern Rite traditions, notably married clergy. (The problem was later addressed with a separate Ruthenian Greek Catholic hierarchy for North America—too late to prevent this particular split.) The building itself was begun in 1936, but, what with one thing and another, it was not completed until 1950.
It was a day of sun and clouds, so we have pictures in very different lighting.
When a new generation of architects feels utter contempt for the work of the previous generation, this is the result. Fortunately, the contempt extended to ignoring the details of the original building, which are therefore preserved, except for the loss of the cornice. Like several other previously abandoned buildings in the historic center of Homestead, this one has now found another use.
The school was named for Charles M. Schwab, who was superintendent of the Homestead Works and later the first president of United States Steel.
A fine example of Tudor Gothic applied to a small church. This is one of the decreasing number of churches in Homestead still inhabited by their original congregations. It is also one of the few churches dedicated to St. Mark the Evangelist that give us his full name.
This glorious Romanesque church was closed in 2009, but it was taken over by a community education organization called Dragon’s Den, which has kept it up beautifully, and in the well-preserved interior has added “a state-of-the-art two-level challenge course, climbing wall, and a 160-foot zip line that connects the choir loft to the former altar.” Now you know what to do with a big vacant church.
Addendum: The architect was Frederick Sauer, who gave us a number of fine churches and the whimsical Sauer Buildings in Aspinwall.
The rectory is overshadowed by the magnificent church, but it is certainly a striking design in its own right.
There has been an A. M. E. church on this site for a long time: a frame church appears on an 1891 map of Homestead. This modest but rich little Tudor Gothic building, with its matching parsonage, dates from 1920, and faces a pleasant park on a pleasant street. It fits well with its neighbors, not overwhelming them but still announcing itself as a church.
Ten years ago this building was abandoned, and the jungle was rapidly swallowing it (here’s a Street View image from Google Maps). Now it’s beautifully restored and in use.
Addendum: According to the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, this post office was built in 1912, with James Knox Taylor listed as architect; but since he was Supervising Architect of the Department of the Treasury, we don’t know how much he had to do with the design. It is certainly true that the designs coming from his office had a certain similarity, implying that he was the dictator of taste if not the architect of the details.
Yesterday we visited McKeesport, a city that has suffered much and probably still has more to suffer. But when our frequent correspondent “von Hindenburg” bemoaned the tragedy of McKeesport, we promised to lift his spirits with some pictures from Homestead, another Mon Valley city (technically a borough) where the news is more cheerful. We’ll be seeing quite a few pictures from both places over the next few days or weeks, and the comparison is instructive.
Both cities lost their reason for being with the end of heavy industry. In McKeesport, the politicians who had presided over the city’s decline had only one strategy for revival: bring back heavy industry. It was never going to happen. In Homestead, politicians seem to have realized that, if the place had a future, it would be as a bedroom community and shopping area for metropolitan Pittsburgh. The gigantic Waterfront development that replaced the Homestead Works brought in money. Father Pitt criticized it for being isolated from the rest of Homestead, but the prosperity has seeped through anyway, and now the Eighth Avenue business district, once nearly deserted, is filling up with brewpubs and smoothie bars and axe-throwing emporia and other signs of prosperity.
Homestead is far from free of problems. But it is beginning to look like an attractive place to live again. McKeesport has what the real-estate agents call potential, but right now it’s definitely a fixer-upper.