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Century-old Glassport church building being demolished

St. Cecilia's:A brief history

According to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, St. Cecilia's was founded in 1901.

Before the parish was established, Catholics traveled to St. Peter Church in McKeesport. Their children attended Sunday school in commercial buildings in Glassport, including a vacant jail.

• On March 11, 1901, a committee appointed by a pastor at St. Peter's purchased land for a church in Glassport. Work began in May.

• In 1906, land was donated for a new, larger church.

• On May 29, 1910, the cornerstone for a combined church/school building was laid.

• On March 26, 1911, the first Mass was celebrated in the church.

• On Nove. 5, 1911, the building was dedicated. The old church was converted into a parish hall; it was torn down in 1925 to make room for an addition to the school.

• On Feb. 2, 1962, the church was badly damaged by a fire set by vandals. While it was being repaired, St. Cecilia's shared Holy Cross school and church facilities. The church reopened in December 1962. The church again was damaged when vandals set fire to it twice in the following two years, but not badly enough to interrupt use of the building.

• The church was remodeled in the mid-1970s.

• According to the website, by the early 1990s it became obvious that Glassport could no longer support two independent parishes.

• In 1994, St. Cecilia merged with Holy Cross parish to form the new Queen of the Rosary parish. As part of the merger, St. Cecilia Church was closed and sold shortly thereafter to Glassport Heritage Society. Officials said the partners of the heritage society are deceased.

Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 4:21 a.m.
 

Beth Cadman of Glassport has fond memories of her time at St. Cecilia. They came flooding back as she watched crews begin demolition of the church on Tuesday afternoon.

“It was such a beautiful building,” Cadman said. “I'm sad because I spent eight years of my school life there and have a lot of happy memories. I've been to a lot of weddings there. It just makes me sad thinking it's just all going to be nothing pretty soon.”

A.W. McNabb LLC crews tore down the front entrance of the building near the intersection of Ohio Avenue and Eighth Street to prepare the way for the bigger equipment they'll use at the site this week.

Cadman was a student at St. Cecilia's in the 1960s and '70s. It is where she was baptized, received First Communion and sung in the choir.

“This was my church. I belonged to this church,” Cadman said.

But vandalism and general deterioration took their toll.

“From what I understand everything's gone from inside,” Cadman said. “It's just sad that the kids are vandalizing it now, and I think it would be just a matter of time that, if the building wasn't coming down, it would have been burned down.”

Police Chief Howard Kifer said a small fire that started near the bottom of the inside steps on Dec. 5 was put out by someone with an extinguisher. No arrests have been made.

“If we find somebody we'd definitely prosecute them,” Kifer said.

Not everyone is sad to see the building come down.

“I'm very happy,” Mayor Michael Evanovich said. “This should have been done many years ago. This building turned into a problem area for kids playing in it, for fires, for squatters. This should make a lot of people happy.”

Evanovich and his wife Kathie were married at St. Cecilia's on Valentine's Day 1976 and their children were baptized there.

“This is a very sentimental building,” Evanovich said. “It has been here for a long time. This building is a fortress, a big and strong building. You'll see a lot of people here taking pictures with little tears in their eyes because it's coming down.”

Twin Rivers Council of Governments accepted a $204,000 bid from the Burgettstown-based company to demolish the building in January.

The funding is from a $215,000 Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund grant through the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County. The price includes asbestos removal.

Glassport was approved for the grant in August 2011.

Mark McNabb, co-owner of A.W. McNabb LLC, said the project was delayed due to a dispute with Twin Rivers COG regarding asbestos removal, which was subcontracted to another company.

“The subcontractor did additional testing, and they found some additional asbestos in the building,” Twin Rivers COG executive director John Palyo said. “We had to go through that process of getting some additional testing done. Once that was cleared, we had a meeting with the county health department, and the new information was given to the primary contractor. They're moving forward with the project.”

McNabb said all asbestos was removed in April.

Palyo said an asbestos permit on Jan. 7 and a demolition permit were issued last week.

McNabb said he wants to finish the job and deal with the dispute later.

Kathy Donkin has lived across from the church for 16 years. She said the building needs to come down.

“I would love to walk out my door and not have to look at that,” Donkin said.

Councilman Dave Kowalski attended school at St. Cecilia's from 1959 to 1966 and was married there. He said the demolition is “a long time coming.”

Council president Terry DiMarco said he had been seeking other uses for the building, such as trying to relocate businesses there, for the past 12 years.

A professional wrestling promotion company was involved about eight years ago, but the last several years have been dedicated to demolition, DiMarco said.

“That was one of the things I really wanted to get done,” DiMarco said. “I'm so happy about that because it really is a nuisance.”

DiMarco did not attend St. Cecilia's, but he understands the demolition can be emotional for those who did.

“It's a sad thing if you went there and now have to look at it, with all the memories that you have,” he said.

Palyo said the borough plans to plant grass and wildflowers when the lot is vacant. Beyond that, Palyo said RAAC may have to take ownership of the property through the legal system and reissue it to a potential developer, should one be found.

“We'll certainly put feelers out to see if we can get someone to come in and buy it,” DiMarco said.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

 

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