St. Mary’s Church, McKees Rocks

Now the home of St. John of God Parish, this is a splendid Gothic church that many another Catholic diocese would be proud to have for its cathedral. The fact that there are literally dozens of churches equally splendid in Pittsburgh and its surroundings is something Pittsburghers simply accept, but it absolutely astonishes outsiders. This one took four years to build; it opened in 1905. The architect was Akron-based William P. Ginther.

Camera: Olympus E-20n.

Here we see the main entrance and the top end of the improvised wooden wheelchair ramp, which looks like a Kennywood ride—perfectly safe but rather exciting.

Camera: Konica-Minolta DiMAGE Z3.

This was originally the German parish in this part of McKees Rocks. Above we see it from the parish cemetery, which is on a hilltop overlooking McKees Rocks in Kennedy Township.

William P. Ginther also designed the adjoining rectory, which is certainly a fine place to keep one’s priests.

Camera: Canon PowerShot A590 (hacked).

Camera: Olympus E-20n.

Father Pitt does not know the original purpose of the building that is now the Xavier Personal Care Home. It looks like a work from the 1920s or 1930s, executed in the storybook fantasy Gothic that was popular then. Was it a convent for the sisters who taught at the parish school? Perhaps a parishioner will enlighten us.

St. Francis de Sales Church, McKees Rocks

This church was closed in 1993, and the building was sold after that; but right now it appears to be abandoned.  It is a tragedy to abandon such a magnificent building, especially since this Renaissance style is very rare in churches around here. But McKees Rocks had half a dozen Catholic parishes in a very small space, and more than one magnificent building among them. The parish was merged into St. John of God Parish, which worships at St. Mary’s a couple of blocks away—also a magnificent church, and one that we are happy to see still going.

The building was opened in 1900. Father Pitt does not know the architect, and would be happy to be enlightened. It has a curious dearth of windows, perhaps to emphasize the light pouring in from the dome. Mid-nineteenth-century Catholic churches in Pittsburgh sometimes avoided windows on the ground floor because the Know-Nothings would invariably smash them, but 1900 seems far too late for fear of such Know-Nothing activity in Pittsburgh.

Cameras: Canon PowerShot A590 (hacked) and Olympus E-20n.

St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church, Four Mile Run

To most Pittsburghers, this is best known as That Church You See from the Parkway. Unless you are very well versed in Pittsburgh lore, you do not know how to get to it. It is in the Four Mile Run neighborhood, which on city planning maps is part of Greenfield, but in fact exists in an alternate dimension. There is only one way in or out for motor vehicles: Saline Street, which begins at Greenfield Avenue and Second Avenue along the Monongahela, and then instantly disappears into a hollow. (Pedestrians have the choice of a rather bracing climb up the stairs to Greenfield, and bicyclists can ride in from the trails in Schenley Park.)

The neighborhood was settled by Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants, one of those nationalities without a nation in which Europe abounds. The whole hollow is dominated by the Parkway viaduct, and indeed much of the neighborhood is directly under the Parkway.

In addition to its visibility from the Parkway, this church is also famous for having been Andy Warhol’s home parish when he was growing up. Warhol remained a Byzantine Catholic to the end of his life, and a very devout one in his own peculiar way.

Camera: Canon PowerShot A590 (hacked).

Holy Spirit Parish, Millvale

Originally St. Anthony’s, a German Catholic church; it became Holy Spirit in the 1990s parish reorganizations, when St. Anthony was merged with St. Anne. The building was put up in 1914, with substantial alterations after a fire in 1936.

One of the surreal things about living in a movie-friendly place like Pittsburgh is that one sometimes finds oneself dropped into a fictional dimension. When Father Pitt stopped to take a picture of this church, he found that the building adjacent was not the parish school, but rather the Crockett County Sheriff’s Department; and there was a sign on the wall that connects the church with the school welcoming him to “Blackburg, Kentucky, The Portal to Shay Mountain, where coal mining is our heritage and Wild Boar & Buck legends live on.” So when, in a year or two, you happen to see a movie that takes place in Blackburg, the seat of Crockett County in Kentucky, you will know that the place is actually Millvale, and the illusion will be spoiled. Sorry about that.

Hiland Presbyterian Church, Ross Township

Camera: Olympus E-20n.

Just north of West View, this church was built in 1836, with additions in 1914 and 1936. In the large churchyard are the remains of many early settlers, including some veterans of the Revolutionary War.

Father Pitt decided to make an atmospherically dark and mysterious churchyard picture, but below is a similar shot in brighter light.

Camera: Canon PowerShot A540 (hacked).

Old St. Luke’s

Father Pitt never needs an excuse to offer yet another picture of Old St. Luke’s, one of our most picturesque country churches. The current building dates from 1852, but the congregation goes back to colonial times, and was the epicenter of the Whiskey Rebellion.

Camera: Canon PowerShot A590 (hacked).

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Highland Park

Completed in 1909, this typical Gothic church was designed by Philadelphia architects Carpenter & Crocker, who also designed Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Homewood and at least one of the Fifth Avenue mansions in Shadyside.

Camera: Kodak EasyShare Z1485 IS. The composite picture above is about 25 megapixels if you click on it.