Tag: Mercur (Elise)

  • St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Hill District

    Cupola of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Hill District

    Elise Mercur was an extraordinary woman. The first female professional architect in Pittsburgh, and one of the first anywhere, she had a prosperous career for about a decade between 1894 and 1905. Then she retired, and most of her buildings have been crushed by the steamroller of time—or by university presidents who need them out of the way to make room for some donor’s vanity project.

    St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

    This church remains, however. It was built for the St. Paul’s Episcopal congregation; later it passed to the Church of the Holy Cross, a Black Episcopal congregation that eventually moved to Homewood. Right now it belongs to the Christian Tabernacle Kodesh Church of Immanuel.

    Centre Avenue end of the church
    From the side

    Those little triangular dormers are imitated from Richardson, who used them in his famous Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Allegheny West.

    The Wikipedia article on Elise Mercur is unusually thorough, so old Pa Pitt will not repeat its information here. He will add, however, that he has been scanning old trade journals to see whether any other buildings by Mercur have survived, and he will publish any findings in this spot.

    Perspective view

    As the only known remaining work of our first female architect, this church has a historical significance that makes it a preservation priority. Father Pitt assigns it to the Near Threatened category in his classification of our vulnerable landmarks.


    The most striking feature of St. Paul’s is the octagonal cupola.