When their five-year-old church was destroyed in a fire around 1903, the Italian immigrants of what is now Pittsburgh’s Larimer neighborhood rebuilt a beautifully domed and vaulted Baroque-style church to become the new social hub of their community. It thrived throughout the 50’s and 60’s, the height of the neighborhood and the church’s popularity, similar to many other Rust Belt cities. Here it is in a screenshot (posted by user CoolRef on City-Data) of the 1960’s television show Route 66, in an episode called “Goodnight, Sweet Blues.”
The neighborhood fell with the steel industry and the church closed by the 1990’s. It was purchased by another religious organization and listed for sale again, restricting the buyers to religious or community projects and rejecting offers by establishments like breweries and clubs.
In the years it’s taken to find the ideal wholesome buyer, the hand painted frescoes have almost faded away entirely, the stained glass has been stolen from its panes, and scrappers and vandals have destroyed almost everything of architectural significance.
But Larimer, once one of Pittsburgh’s poorest neighborhoods, has seen a lot of recent change – millions and millions of dollars’ worth, in fact – and it seems unlikely that Help of Christians will remain in this state for long. I’ve heard rumors that it was purchased within the past year, but can’t seem to find any concrete information, so perhaps the seller found their ideal candidate to take over the disgraced property. In the meantime, increased police presence and prosecution of trespassers in Larimer due to all the of investment in the neighborhood has kept Our Lady Help of Christians empty and quiet throughout the summer.
Hopefully, despite the restrictions for its sale, the rumors are true, and the stunning and horribly neglected church will open its doors again someday soon.