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Overbrook church receives $10K grant to refurbish stained glass windows

| Thursday, April 10, 2014, 12:30 a.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
One of the many stained glass windows in Fairhaven United Methodist Church in Overbook.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Fairhaven United Methodist Church in Overbook was designated a historic landmark in 2013.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
The Rev. Sue Hutchins leads worship services on Sunday, April 6, 2014, near one of the many stained glass windows in Fairhaven United Methodist Church.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Members of the congregation worship on Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Fairhaven United Methodist Church in Overbook.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
The Rev. Sue Hutchins stands near one of the many stained glass windows in Fairhaven United Methodist Church during during worship services on Sunday, April 6, 2014, in the Overbook church.

Fairhaven United Methodist Church in Overbrook received a Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation grant that will go toward refurbishing stained glass windows that tell the church's story.

The grant is $10,000 in matching money, meaning the church near the busy intersection of Routes 51 and 88 must match or exceed that amount. So far, church historian Rich Cummings said, the congregation has raised about $7,000.

“There are 17 windows in all that need work done,” Cummings said. “The sole cost to renovate just one window is $38,000. The total cost to do this project will be about $200,000. Our goal is to get as many windows renovated as possible over a 10-year period.”

All the windows have been dedicated to people and organizations in the church's history. Cummings expects the work to start after the Easter holiday.

David Vater, chairman of the foundation's historic religious properties committee, said religious properties that promote the public good and are anchors in their communities are selected to receive grants. The maximum allotted per church is $10,000, but churches can request money each year.

“Our focus is critical work to keep the structure in place,” Vater said. “We are only concerned with maintaining the integrity of the buildings, which is why grant money is to be used for the exterior of the buildings only.”

The Fairhaven site is “prone to flooding and is a traffic nightmare, but it definitely needed the funding.”

The white clapboard church, which dates to 1907, and the Overbrook fire hall are the last buildings that represent the small town of Fairhaven.

This year, the foundation gave $95,710 that was split among 12 religious properties in Allegheny County.

“There is a great need to help these properties because they are not eligible for state or federal funding since they are religious,” Vater said.

Road work at Routes 51 and 88 has been an issue over the years for the church. John Rudiak, a PennDOT traffic systems control specialist, said intersection improvements “were constantly being designed and redesigned. This is the busiest and most congested intersection in Western Pennsylvania, with over 40,000 vehicles using it daily.”

In 1957, the church was in danger of being torn down for a multimillion-dollar PennDOT project that would have led to a six-lane road. The project was abandoned.

Regarding a reconstruction of the intersection, “Neither the Fairhaven Church nor the Overbrook fire hall is on the agenda to be destroyed or relocated, although many other buildings and properties may be affected,” Rudiak said. “Both properties are considered to be landmarks in the Overbrook neighborhood and are off limits.”

When Pittsburgh gave Fairhaven historical landmark status, Cummings said, “it gave us protection. Still, the road work makes the church difficult to access and tends to make people feel threatened by it, like the church is going to be swallowed up.”

A local company, Rudy Brothers Co., designed the stained glass windows.

One criterion for the foundation's Historic Religious Properties Program is that churches have an active congregation. Fairhaven offers worship from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Sundays.

Chasity Capasso is a freelance writer.

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