|St. Nicholas Croatian Church North Side demolition © 2013 Stephen Willing|
Although outside it is still looking a lot like winter, spring is upon us, baseball season just started, and the Pens are heading for the playoffs ... and our next Pittsburgh trip is just around the corner.
But before we travel across the pond again, I would like to update you about what happened to the St.Nicholas Croatian North Side Church. When we were in Pittsburgh last time, I wrote about the imminent demolition of this beautiful church that was once the home of the oldest Croatian parish in the United States, and the news I have for you is not good.
Since the middle of January, St. Nicholas Croatian Church on the North Side is gone. In December, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh made a final offer of over $300,000 which would have saved the building and allowed a reuse as an immigration museum, but the offer was turned down by the St. Nicholas Millvale parish, and final preparations for the demolition began.
The stained glass windows once donated by the Croatian Fraternal Union Lodges from around the United States were removed as well as the Italian marble from all of the altar areas. The three church bells were recovered after demolition.
The rest of the interior still left in the church included the marble lining on all the walls. The one of a kind Grotto that was built into the hillside was completely destroyed. Just dust and rubble is left from what was such an important place for the Croatian community in Pittsburgh and a strong symbol of what the immigrants in Pittsburgh built with their own hands to make the new world their home.
The Preserve Croatian Heritage Foundation who fought for over a dozen years to save the church is devastated by the loss, but the focus remains now on what is left of the church – especially the stained glass windows, which for now are in the safekeeping of the diocese, but it is yet unknown how they will be reused – if ever.
Gabrijela, who is of Croatian descent herself, and I as somebody who for over a decade travels to Croatia every year and admires the Croatian culture, would hope so much that at least those windows could be reused in a context that supports the Croatian heritage in Pittsburgh – something we are keen to explore beyond the beautiful St. Nicholas Croatian Church in Millvale and the Vanka murals which we already visited a year ago.
I can just also only hope that the Pittsburgh mayoral elections coming up will lead to a leadership with more awareness of the value of historical structures and also more determination and creativity when it comes to the preservation and economically reasonable reuse of those buildings.
- More pictures of the church as well as the demolition can be seen here
- Visit the website of the Preserve Croatian Heritage Foundation here
- Read the related blog post "You Can't Raze My Memory" by Jonathan Barnes here