Menu Contact/Location

Historic-church projects task foundation

By Jeremy Boren
Saturday, December 29, 2007

A growing number of historic churches in Allegheny County rotted by leaky roofs or even ransacked by thieves are seeking cash from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation to jump-start expensive renovation efforts.

Since 1997, the foundation has given more than $600,000 to 94 congregations to fix cracked stained-glass windows and to replace crumbling brick. Thirty-five churches — the most ever in a single year — requested $290,000 worth of repairs for 2008.

Members of many aging congregations will be forced to look for help elsewhere next year — only about $87,000 will be available when the foundation’s Historic Religious Properties Committee decides how to distribute the money in mid-January, said Carole Malakoff, the program’s coordinator.

“This church is something worth preserving. It’s a yellow-brick building with a red door, and it had beautiful stained-glass windows, light fixtures and cherry wood inside,” said the Rev. Rosemary Seals, co-pastor of Triumph the Church and Kingdom of God in Christ on Lillie Avenue in Braddock.

In July, thieves stole 14 brass light fixtures, valued at $1,000 apiece, and three stained-glass windows from the 500-person sanctuary of the century-old church.
Water comes in through a shoddy roof, spurring mold growth.

The condition has kept the 40 to 50 regular members from attending services there since July, said Seals, 74, of the Hill District.

Seals said she hopes the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation will give $10,000, the largest award available, to help her with repairs, which are expected to cost up to $51,000.

The Rev. John Paul Chaney, 54, of Bloomfield, has asked for the same amount of money to begin a much larger $1 million to $1.5 million restoration of the roof, windows and mold-encrusted walls of the former Fourth United Presbyterian Church in Bloomfield.

“It’s perfectly located,” Chaney said of the 112-year-old Richardsonian Romanesque stone church at the corner of South Pacific and Friendship avenues.

The church is convenient to Bloomfield, Friendship and Shadyside residents.

“The stone itself is absolutely gorgeous. I don’t know what it would cost for somebody to build a church like this today,” Chaney said.

The church hasn’t been used in almost two years, when the roof began to leak and no money was available to fix it, he said.

It was renamed Pacific Sanctuary Church in September, when Chaney’s nonprofit Earthen Vessels Outreach Program, an Episcopal Church affiliate, bought it.

Chaney said he hopes to make the church into a sanctuary for regular services and a meeting place, akin to The Union Project in Highland Park.

“Our prime goal now is to raise a lot of money so we can give to a lot of churches,” said Malakoff, adding that Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation requires churches to be at least 50 years old, located in Allegheny County and can match the grant awards.

“It’s not only that many churches need stained-glass windows, it’s the fact that the church in many communities is the center of activity, not only for religious purposes but also social services,” said Malakoff, the program’s director. “That needs to be preserved.”

Jeremy Boren can be reached at or 412-765-2312.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633