Gaping hole signals former St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church's demolition
For the first time in years, the public got to see inside the former St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church this weekend — through a huge hole knocked in the eastern side of the building.
Demolition crews began tearing down the 112-year-old church last week, removing the semicircular apse that used to hold the altar and exposing the large, empty space where the congregation once gathered for Mass.
“I was going to church this morning in Troy Hill, and I sighed in relief to see that the onion domes (of St. Nicholas) were still there,” said Susan Petrick, 61, of Shaler, a former parishioner at St. Nicholas and secretary of the Preserve Croatian Heritage Foundation. “Then my eyes moved downward. I was lucky no one was around, because I was just devastated.”
Through the gaping hole in the building, drivers inbound on Route 28 could see straight through the church to the large, circular window at its far end; a few even pulled over so they could take pictures and gawk at the exposed brickwork and rib-like wooden arches.
One of the gawkers was Ray Peitrone, 56, another former parishioner who lives in Troy Hill above the church. A longtime advocate for preservation, he took issue with the argument from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh and St. Nicholas Parish in Millvale that the building had to be demolished because it was unsafe or in danger of collapse.
“Why'd they have traffic coming by here all these years if the church is ready to fall down?” Peitrone asked. “It could have been sold several times, but the (diocese and parish) wouldn't take it.”
Established as a parish for Croatian Catholic immigrants in 1900, the parish was merged with St. Nicholas in Millvale in 1994, closed in 2004, and survived an ongoing PennDOT project to widen Route 28 that was eventually routed around the church. Over the parish's objections, the city designated the building a historic structure in 2001, but the parish convinced a judge this summer that keeping the building was an economic hardship.
The diocese said in court that the parish spent $360,000 to maintain and insure the building during the past eight years as it sat empty. The monthly expense of $1,800 represents 17 percent of the income for the 225-member parish, the diocese said.
The Rev. Dan Whalen, administrator at St. Nicholas in Millvale, referred questions to the diocese.
A diocesan spokesman could not be reached for comment.
The Northside Leadership Conference and the Preserve Croatian Heritage Foundation had proposed turning the building into a museum for the history of Pittsburgh's immigrant communities, but they could not agree with the parish and diocese over conditions of the sale.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority offered to buy the church and turn it over to the Northside Leadership Conference but was unable to reach an agreement, URA Chairman Yarone Zober said.
For former parishioners such as Peitrone and Petrick, fighting their former parish for the fate of their former church has left their faith shaken.
“I don't want anything to do with the Catholic Church any more, not after this,” Peitrone said.
Matthew Santoni is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media.
Add Matthew Santoni to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Reading Harry Potter provides clues to brain activity, CMU researchers say
- Girl, 12, rescues 4-year-old sister from burning house in Homestead
- La Roche College to accept up to 90 credits from community college students
- Suspect in Route 28 death has long history of ignoring vehicle registration, license laws, records show
- Lower gas prices entice motorists to drive long distances for Thanksgiving
- U.S. Steel Tower tenants stand to benefit from company’s relocation
- Surgery for man shot by Pittsburgh officer on hold amid legal limbo
- Alcoa judgment helps U.S. Attorney’s Office collect 5 times its budget
- Brentwood police chief to get nearly $200K as part of settlement agreement with borough
- Newsmaker: Sister Rita Yeasted
- Thanksgiving closures