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Parishioners Decry Demolished 157-Year-Old Church in Elizabeth

August 26, 2008

A wrecking ball demolished a 157-year-old church in Elizabeth on Monday after decades of debate over the building’s future.

St. Michael the Archangel Church, built in 1851, closed its doors in 1987 after the Pittsburgh Diocese deemed the structure unsafe.

Long-time parishioners told WTAE Channel 4’s Jon Greiner Monday night that they believed the structure withstood time well.

"It was for the coal miners and the ship builders from Elizabeth. It stood up during the Civil War and here we are closing it," said Susan Sopko, a former parishioner. "It’s an historic landmark." A group of parishioners tried unsuccessfully to save the church, even offering to buy it, which the diocese turned down.

"That’s not what I wanted to see. We would rather have kept it a historical monument and a chapel of convenience," said J.C. Natale, a former parishioner. "We tried for 21 years and this is the end result."
Arnold Shaner took pictures of the demolition. He and five siblings were all baptized and married in the church.

"There’s a lot of memories in there. I was a wee guy. My mom used to sing at weddings," he said. "I spent a lot of hours in that church."

Shaner’s mother also drew the design for what was to become the Archangel Michael that stood guard over the church for decades — a guardian who is scheduled to come down Tuesday with the steeple and remainder of the church.

The Save Our Church group said its members plan further investigate the church was actually torn down without proper permits.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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