Pittsburgh: Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church

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.”

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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.

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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.

 

 

14 thoughts on “Pittsburgh: Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church

  1. Yes, waiting for that wholesome buyer is like refusing to be carried out of a flaming building by a firefighter with an immoral character. Unfortunately, though, as happened in my town, a less than ideal buyer may obtain a decaying church with fair promises only to level it for the sake of the land. Let’s hope that this beautiful old church will find an angel with a creative set of blueprints!

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    1. I completely agree! I really hope that those requirements for the sale also work to filter out that kind of developer. It’s dangerously close to a new Target store and all kinds of newly constructed residential buildings, but another nearby historic school in MUCH worse condition is being renovated now. There’s still hope.

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  2. Lovely shots as always, particularly the mini organ awaiting to entertain a new congregation! Here in England we are seeing some neglected buildings too, sadly. Locally in the New Forest there is a lovely old hotel which I visited not long before it closed with some fabulous 1920’s fixtures – all set to be demolished ( to make way for a supermarket) !! Keep up the good work – seems criminal that as we are amongst the wealthiest nations on the planet we seem to let our heritage crumble…

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    1. Thank you! I’m glad you got a chance to see the hotel before it goes away, that sounds like an incredible location. It always hurts so much to lose them, especially for something so inconsequential and easy to relocate.

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      1. I’m happy to hear that. People are finally starting to pay more attention! In Detroit, the community rallied around a historic bank with a petition and appeals to city council and actually staved off an active demolition (at least for now, fingers crossed!). It makes me feel better to know a difference can be made.

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      1. I’ll look around. I’m guessing that I do have some old photos. This was my grandmother’s church and then my mom and all of her siblings had weddings, etc there; so, there are likely some old photos floating around. My sister and I were also baptized, confirmed, and married in this church. I’ll post what I can find.

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