Brush Creek Salems Church, Irwin

Now Brush Creek Salem United Church of Christ, this beautiful and stately building is nearly 200 years old: it was built somewhere around the years 1816-1820, serving the colonial-era community of Brush Creek outside Irwin. The adjacent Brush Creek Cemetery has marked burials going back to the 1700s, with some extraordinary works of folk art among the tombstones.

St. Bernard Church and School, Mount Lebanon

The rear of St. Bernard Church, as seen from the St. Clair Cemetery.

Camera: Olympus E-20n.

Union Church, Robinson Township

Formerly Union Presbyterian Church, this congregation has been here more than two centuries. In the adjacent burying ground are several Revolutionary War veterans, and the hilltop church with the cemetery below is irresistibly picturesque.

Old Pa Pitt, however, could not get a good picture of the church today, because he was there in the afternoon when the sun was shining in the wrong direction. So instead he gives you the next best thing, which is an atmospheric picture. You can always compensate for a picture’s defects by turning it black and white and calling it art.

Camera: Canon PowerShot A590 IS (hacked).

North Zion Lutheran Church, Baldwin Borough

North Zion Lutheran Church is about a mile due south of Zion Lutheran Church in Baldwin Borough. Father Pitt will leave worrying about the cardinal directions to foreigners; Pittsburghers expect everything to be turned upside-down or sideways. The main part of the little church was built in 1859, and the congregation that inhabits it has been here for more than two centuries. Burials in the graveyard adjacent go back to 1812, but the earliest legible tombstones seem to be from the 1840s.

Little country churches make delightful two-color postcards, so old Pa Pitt has given these same pictures the old-postcard treatment over at Two-Color World.

Camera: Olympus E-20n.

First Presbyterian Church

Composite picture, about 36 megapixels.

This splendid Gothic church sits on Sixth Avenue right next to Trinity Cathedral (Anglican/Episcopal) and right across from the Duquesne Club, forming a perfect triangle of old money. The architect was Theophilus P. Chandler, Jr., who also designed Third Presbyterian in Shadyside and the Duncan mausoleum in the Union Dale Cemetery.

An interesting feature of the front is the outdoor pulpit, perfectly positioned for thundering denunciations at the rich robber barons coming out of the Duquesne Club. But that never happens.

Camera: Olympus E-20n.

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.