Designed by Ralph Adams Cram, this church has a more austere sort of dignity than the architect’s other two works in Pittsburgh, East Liberty Presbyterian and Holy Rosary Catholic. It apparently took some delicate maneuvering to get an Episcopal congregation with low-church sympathies (but lots of money) to accept a Gothic masterpiece.
Ralph Adams Cram was probably the greatest Gothic architect our country ever produced. There are three churches by Cram in Pittsburgh (and one in Greensburg), and each is a masterpiece in its way. East Liberty Presbyterian is overwhelmingly impressive. Calvary Episcopal is restrained and tasteful, a good fit for its low-church Episcopalian congregation. But Holy Rosary seems to be a product of the artist’s pure delight in his medium. It was finished in 1930, when Cram was at the peak of his creative powers.
The church is still in good shape, but it is no longer a worship site, and what can be done with a building this size? The offices of St. Charles Lwanga parish are here, but it is only a matter of time before someone decides that it would be more efficient to have an office building that is less expensive to maintain. Homewood is prospering much more than it was a few years ago, but it has a long way to go before it becomes a rich enough neighborhood to make it worth adapting this building; and any congregation looking for a church would have to have a high budget to maintain this one. (St. Charles Lwanga parish worships a few blocks away in the small and undistinguished, but much easier to maintain, Mother of Good Counsel church.)
We hope Holy Rosary will be preserved and restored, but it competes with many other churches and synagogues worthy of preservation and restoration. It is hard to find uses for a building so perfectly adapted to one specific purpose for which it is no longer wanted.
All the niches have lost their statues, which suggests that the parish took them down and reinstalled them elsewhere. Do any St. Charles Lwanga parishioners know the story? (Addendum: See the comment from Theresa Moore below; she tells us that statues were never installed.)