A List of ‘Born Again’ Pittsburgh Area Churches With New Purposes | News | Pittsburgh

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CP photo: Jared Wickerham

The windows designed for Tiffany & Co. at “Greystone Castle”

Pittsburgh is home to an abundance of old church buildings. Their spiers rise up against our rolling backdrop and famous skyline, adding to the unique fabric of each neighborhood. Historically, the city’s patchwork roots have led each group of immigrants to want to have their own place of worship, which has led to many neighborhoods having a church on every block. The changes in the dynamics of the city, however, have left many of these architectural wonders empty, abandoned and in ruins.

Across town, however, many of these old buildings have undergone revitalization where they have been repurposed for other uses. From private homes to witch covens to bars, many of these historic structures are ‘born again’.

Click to enlarge Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville - PR PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM

CP photo: Jared Wickerham

Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville

Brew Works Church

3525 Avenue de la Liberté, Lawrenceville. Churchbrew.com

This is probably the most well-known use of an ancient church in the city. The locally brewed beer harkens back to the roots of loyal Irish and Scottish Catholics who once worshiped in its large main hall, which is now lined with kettles of fermenting beers. The building, erected in 1878, opened as a brewery and restaurant in 1996. The team worked to reuse as much as they could, including building the bar from pieces of old benches. Shortened versions of the original benches serve as table seats.

Click to enlarge The interior of This is Red in Munhall - PR PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM

CP photo: Jared Wickerham

The interior of This is Red in Munhall

It’s red

605 E. Ninth Avenue, Munhall. thisisredeventspace.com

A Slovak congregation at the turn of the century wanted a church of its own, where Slovaks could practice their cultural traditions and worship in their language. St. Michael’s, built from 1925, is a blend of classical Romanesque architecture combined with Eastern Byzantine influences. As people began to assimilate and lose their distinct heritages, there was little need for such a niche parish. The doors closed in 2009 and the diocese suppressed all religious figures. In 2015, the space was purchased and opened as an event space. It houses offices, hosts weddings, and even has a cave where Yoda replaced the removed relic.

Click to enlarge The Cove Art Center in Avalon - PHOTO: BRAEDEN J MCCLAIN

Photo: Braeden J McClain

The Cove Art Center in Avalon

The cove art center

939 California Avenue, Avalon. facebook.com/TheCOVEArtCenter

The Greenstone United Methodist Church in Avalon still has an active congregation, but does not need the entire massive building. Once a Methodist bishopric group would meet in a log church a few blocks away, it has moved and changed over the years. The current building is literally built of green stone, hence its name. The Cove Art Center, an after-school program, introduces children to the creative arts and hosts a collective of artists (facebook.com/TheNoveltyCollectif) also. During the pandemic lockdown, residents used the church kitchen to feed thousands of neighbors, the heated food online post shows. The church is also home to a day care center and the local Cub troop, showing how even with a declining congregation, old churches can be given new life.

Click to enlarge Mr. Smalls Theater in Millvale - PHOTO: JUSTIN BOYD

Photo: Justin Boyd

Mr. Smalls Theater in Millvale

M. Smalls Theater

400 Lincoln Avenue, Millvale. mrsmalls.com

Many residents of Pittsburgher have seen some of their favorite bands at the Mr. Smalls Theater, a local icon of the music scene. The church – which was erected in 1924 as the Catholic Church of St. Anne – opened in 2002 as a recording studio, event space, restaurant, and concert hall. Bought by a couple in the music industry and named after their son’s nickname, it has hosted big names like Fall Out Boy and Snoop Dog. One of the founders, Liz Berlin, is a member of rock band Rusted Root, which started out in Pittsburgh.

Click to enlarge Inside Dr. Dennis Monks' residence in the 22nd Street condos on the south side - CP PHOTO: YASH MITTAL

CP photo: Yash Mittal

Inside Dr. Dennis Monks’ residence in the 22nd Street condos on the south side

22nd Street Condos

The old St. Casimir’s Church was erected on the south side in 1902 and served the Lithuanian population of the neighborhood for over 80 years. The decline of congregations forced the diocese to merge the parishes in 1992 and close the building. It changed hands several times before developer Ivor Hill bought it. While some may have seen the value of the land and razed the building, he created 12 unique units that incorporate original details from the neo-baroque church. Dr Dennis Monks left Pittsburgh City Paper to see one of the units. His house is on four levels and includes a patio in the old belfry.

Elemental magic

1111 State Ave., Coraopolis. facebook.com/ElementalMagickInc

Elemental Magick is a metaphysics and healing store run by a group of local witches – wives Tabitha and Tamara Latshaw, and their sister-in-law Kari Latshaw – who are currently rehabilitating an old church in Coraopolis. At present, they are working in a nine-minute storefront in Sewickley as they restore the 1915 Presbyterian Church which they named “Greystone Castle” to its former glory. The previous owner wanted to demolish it to sell the windows, which were created by the Rudy brothers, who designed for Tiffany & Co. They are valued at $ 1 million, and the sisters have no intention of selling them. withdraw from their original home. They were drawn to the space, they say, by the positive supernatural activity in the building, including disembodied voices, orbs, pipe smoke, and more. While religious services are no longer celebrated in the ancient relic, the spiritual world is still very active within its walls.

Click to enlarge A child climbs through the adventure course at Dragon's Den in Homestead.  -CP PHOTO: KAYCEE ORWIG

Photo of the CP: Kaycee Orwig

A child climbs through the adventure course at Dragon’s Den in Homestead.

dragon’s lair

1008 Amith Street, family property. dragonsdenpgh.org

St. Mary Magdalene, a restored Italian Renaissance church listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places, is now home to an adventure trail for young people in the Pittsburgh area. The community center isn’t just about rock climbing, as staff and volunteers seek to connect with local children and foster character development. Students, Boy Scout groups, sports teams and families appreciate this unique addition to the city’s indoor recreation space. Although the original purpose of the building has changed, it is still a community connection center. The high ceiling of the main sanctuary space is also perfect for a zipline.

Click to enlarge A night of professional boxing inside the priory on the north side - PR PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM

CP photo: Jared Wickerham

A night of professional boxing inside the priory on the north side

The prayer

614 Pressley Street, north side. pittsburghsgrandhall.com

This Italian-style structure from 1854 housed the former congregation of St. Mary, made up of immigrants from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, hence the area being referred to as Deutschtown. The property actually housed a priory (similar to a monastery or convent). It has become a premier event space and hotel in the city, and the high ceilings and intricate glasswork lend a regal feel to every event that takes place there. Originally, the building did not have stained glass, as a local group at the time targeted and smashed the windows of many immigrant Catholic churches. The current glass was placed in 1912. The church was to be demolished to make way for Interstate 279, but a long legal battle saved the building in the 1980s.

Click to enlarge Artist works inside Project Union in Highland Park - PR PHOTO: YASH MITTALL

CP photo: Yash Mittall

An artist works inside the Union Project in Highland Park

Union project

801 N. Negley Avenue, Highland Park. unionproject.org

This 1903 Gothic Revival building was originally the home of the Second United Presbyterian Church, although it has changed hands on several occasions. The last congregation was the Union Baptist Church, where the current owners took the name of their project. In 2003, a community education project enabled volunteers to learn the art of stained glass and help restore damaged stained glass. In 2013, the sloped floor was built above the original raked floor to create more usable space, and everyone celebrated by dancing at a flat-deck Fiesta. It is now an event space, artist collective and community arts education program that believes creative work is the best way to connect diverse groups and experiences.
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