Thursday Doors – Church of the Epiphany

Church of the Epiphany

When you discover a church in what seems to be an odd location, you know there has to be some interesting history. My experience is that you can’t always find that history, but in this case, it couldn’t have been easier. I saw the church featured today when Faith and I were trying to find a gift shop in the PPG Paints Arena a.k.a. The Paint Can, a.k.a. the place where the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team plays. The Pens were in the playoffs, and we wanted some new gear.

A quick Google search on: “the church next to PPG Paints Arena” brought me straight to the church’s website. That’s where the history gets interesting:

 

To understand the history of Epiphany Parish, it is necessary to briefly review the history of St. Paul Cathedral. St. Paul Church was built in 1834.”

If you want the long story version, staring one of Pittsburgh’s most famous robber barons, Henry Clay Frick, you can read the entire history page. As the Devil says in the Twilight Zone Episode “The Escape Clause”, I’ll just give it to you thumbnail.

St. Paul Church, was built when Pittsburgh was still part of the Catholic Diocese of Philadelphia. Just knowing about that connection would be enough to make some Pittsburgh sports fans change religious affiliations. The church was built at a prominent downtown location, across from the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail. The church struggled as the city grew. Eventually, the church was destroyed by fire. For some reason, the bishop ordered the church rebuilt, on the same location, at a cost that couldn’t be supported by the parish.

Long story short, the church was sold to Mr. Frick for $1.3 million, which in 1901, was a huge amount of money. The bishop erected the Church of the Epiphany and started working on a new cathedral in Oakland. Mr. Frick built what became The Union Trust building. The church was doing well. One bit of history that caught my attention was how the church started holding a 2:30 am mass for Catholic printers from the seven daily newspapers in the early 1900s. They continued holding that mass until 1991, as it was also popular with late-night partiers.

Unfortunately, the early 1960s brought urban renewal to Pittsburgh. While many good things were done under the banner of “improvement,” one that wasn’t so good was the razing of what was known as The Lower Hill District. Again, according to the history page:

“…Although it took a number of years to plan, the effect of Urban Renewal in the Uptown – Lower Hill District neighborhoods had a ravaging impact almost overnight. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the neighborhood surrounding Epiphany Parish was bulldozed off the map. In less than six months, eight thousand people were relocated. Homes and businesses were torn down, and the rubble was hauled away. No one in living memory remembered seeing so much flat land in the Uptown neighborhood waiting to be developed. The effect was devastating…”

One of the bits of development in the Hill District, as it was known to us, was the Civic Arena. This was a mixed-use arena with a retractable domed roof. It was home to the Pittsburgh Hornets hockey team, which later became the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In the early part of this century, the Penguins lobbied for a new home, and what is now PPG Paints Arena was the result. Ironically, the ideal location for the arena was partially occupied by the property belonging to the Church of the Epiphany. A deal was reached. The church would remain, and with the proceeds from the sale of a couple of church buildings, a four-story rectory and residence was built next to the church.

Today’s gallery includes photos of the church, the Paint Can, the Union Trust and the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail. Since I mentioned the Devil in this post and since, at the point of the previous period, there were 666 words, I’ll remind you that Thursday Doors is the brainchild of Norm Frampton. As interesting as it might be, I won’t be casting Norm as a robber baron, bishop or as the Devil. I’ll just say that you can visit his site, admire his doors, click on the blue frog and see all this week’s doors.

About Dan Antion

Husband, father, woodworker, cyclist, photographer, geek - oh wait, I’m writing this like I only have 140 characters. I am all those things, and more, and all of these passions present me with opportunities to observe, and think about things that I can’t write about in other places. I have started this blog to catch the stuff that falls out, overflows and just plain doesn’t fit the other containers in my life.
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85 Responses to Thursday Doors – Church of the Epiphany

  1. As much as I enjoy the solitude and serenity of my peaceful plot here in the north, I do appreciate the majesty of the heritage buildings in urban centers. Thanks for sharing the virtual tour.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think Pittsburgh should compensate you as a travel consultant, and I definitely think I’ve missed something by not having traveled there. Beautiful Church, doors and brick work. I like the term ‘paint can,’ and I’ve never heard of a 2:30 mass but it makes sense. Hope you got some nice new gear. :-)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Judy. Faith and I and my brother attended a game at PPG Paints shortly after PPG bought the sponsorship. Standing in line, a group of us were saying that “there’s no way they’re not calling this the paint can.” My daughter looked it up and it had already been established.

      I like walking around the sections of the city that haven’t changed a lot since I was there. I remember being so excited when they were building Thur Civic Arena, but I was too young to understand the “urban renewal” connections. This church is beautiful, but it looked out of place, although it has obviously been there a long time. That’s when you know there’s a story.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. dweezer19 says:

    That’s a huge church! And the brick is so red. It’s a beautiful building. One thing about Catholics. They bend the system to meet the demand. I love the 2 am masses for the newspaper workers. I do love the stinework on the jailhouse the most though. It has such a castle feel to it. Well done as always Dan! My doors post will be later. I have my photos chosen but no time yet to get it together. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I was going to feature the courthouse and jail separately. Then, as I read the history, I realized that I had photos of all theses related buildings. I love the stone work in the courthouse and jail. I also like how they tried to match the style in the new building.

      Like

  4. GP Cox says:

    I prefer the spectacular grandeur of the older churches and cathedrals. They seem more reverent to me for some reason. You took fantastic shots again, Dan!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. The entire Church of the Epiphany is beautiful, but (I already had GP’s word in my head — great minds think alike!) that entry is truly spectacular. I love the color of the stonework. Well done, Dan. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. loisajay says:

    ‘Bulldozed off the map’…what chilling words. Who is the statue in front of the city office building? I so agree with GP (above)–the old churches were spectacular. Great photos, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Lois. The urban renewal efforts ultimately fed the riots in the mid-late 60s. In some ways, the area still hasn’t recovered.

      The statue is Richard S. Caliguiri who was mayor from 1977 until his death in 1988. He was popular. I was in graduate school in Pittsburgh when he won his first election.

      Like

  7. Peter Nena says:

    The door to the new rectory is so amazing. The light too.

    Like

  8. Vicky says:

    A great virtual tour Dan, with history too, a lovely read and of course some splendid doors to admire!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. bikerchick57 says:

    I agree with Lois about the chilling words. It must have been awful for those who were made to relocate and then look at the flat, bulldozed land where their homes once stood.

    The Catholic Church is gorgeous! Yet another building that intrigues me. What does it look like inside? I would love to pass through the doors and see what’s on the other side. I bet it’s just as beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Mary. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open. I’m sure we will be back to visit. I’ll keep trying those doors.

      They are still trying to decide what to do with the land where the Civic Arena used to sit. This part of the city is a sad part of Pittsburgh’s history, for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Almost Iowa says:

    Urban Renewal
    noun:
    1. Buy low, sell high…the difference made up by the taxpayers.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. jolynnpowers says:

    the photos are wonderful and make me what to explore more of Pittsburgh. We have plans to head that way for Christopher’s birthday. We are headed to the Carnegie natural history museum and art galleries. But the real reason I am writing is the sign over the court house door. The photo made me feel strange. the Words on the sign are “Pittsburgh Welcomes You, Welcomes all of you. Then the ten different ways to say welcome in ten different languages.It is lovely to see the welcome in so many languages but the ” Welcomes all of you” statement says a lot about how our cities and people are feeling about immigration and how that is not in line with our presidents view of the issue. If Pittsburgh is willing to place a huge sign of the front of their public buildings like this something is very wrong with what is happening higher up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      First off, JoLynn, if you’re heading to the Carnegie museums (which are wonderful) you will be across the street from the Cathedral of Learning. If you have a few minutes, step into the Commons. I’ve featured those pictures before, but there’s no way to truly capture that experience.

      Pittsburgh has a rich history of owing its success to immigrants. Most of those old-school jobs are gone, but that spirit is still alive there. It’s baked into my personal history as much as support for the sports teams. I think seeing that banner on the city offices must make a lot of people feel good.

      Thanks for the comment today!

      Like

  12. Norm 2.0 says:

    That is a gorgeous church Dan and the main entrance just suits it so well.
    I’ve been to a Habs/Penguins game at that arena back in 2014 when it was still the Consol Center. It was the first game back after the Sotchi Olympics and Sid was given a little pre-game tribute for his gold medal win. Montreal won in OT ;-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Norm. That is a seriously loud arena. The first time we were there was also in 2014. The Pens beat the Islanders. When we went in 2016, it had just been rebranded as PPG Paints Arena. I thin we watched the Pens beat the Maple Leafs. The church is stunning and I am glad they have found a way to maintain and grow through the long struggle for that area.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Nice to come back to Pittsburgh. What is that guy reading in front of the city office building, Did I miss it? Thanks, Dan

    Liked by 1 person

  14. So much is lost in the name of progress. I’m glad that the church was able to negotiate its survival. Beautiful doors (and bridge). Didn’t I read something about the Penguins recently?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Ha ha – yes, you did read something about the Penguins. This is Penguins week on No Facilities in honor of they’re winning the Stanley Cup (twice in two years).

      I am really happy this church found a way to survive. It’s a beautiful building and the history of the people it represents is so important. They are among the people who build that city.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. marianallen says:

    I seem to ALSO have a weakness for those metallic grids, like on the Union Trust Building. Of COURSE, and ALWAYS, arches! And the Courthouse/Jail/Bridge combo is wonderful. Loved the closeup of the chain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Marian. I love the bridge between the courthouse and jail, even though it represents a sad walk for so many. The complex is so large, it’s hard to get good photos (well, hard for me). I was happy to read the long-form history of that church and realize that I had taken these pictures while we were walking. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Like

  16. Liu Min says:

    These are such nice pictures, red bricks in contrast with blue sky. My knowledge of church in general is limited…your post intrigues me to learn more about it though. :) Thanks for the tour.:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. So much of our early history in this country was formed around churches, so there is often an interesting history. This one is not atypical, the battle between church and commerce.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Okay, that county jail is packed full of history. Cool place. Loved the header image to this post, Dan. Quite grand.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Pingback: #ThursdayDoors — The Capitol Building | joeyfullystated

  19. joey says:

    The church is gorgeous, I love the color and those rosettes in the window, faux pillars and twin towers, Phew! The color! Gorgeous!
    But oh, the jail! The jail is sorta old world beautiful, which you don’t see so much up north.
    Also? Chains FTW!
    Great doors! :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I’m glad you like the jail and courthouse. It’s long been one of my favorite buildings in downtown Pittsburgh. It’s so massive, so strong and formidable. The bridge has always made me a little sad – I know, prisoners are bad guys, but the notion of being walked from the courthouse into the jail just seems awful. I made several attempts to capture the scale of that chain.

      When I read the history of the church, and saw that it used to be near the courthouse, I was happy to realize that I had these photos and I could finally use them.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. The entrance is gorgeous! I love the arch and Angels guarding the doors.

    The Frisk building entrance is lovely too. The gold/brass with the stone is so elegant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Deborah. Frick was a sketchy fellow. He caused a lot of pain in western PA, but he left a lot of landmark buildings, including a nice small museum in uptown Manhattan. I took the photo of the Union Trust building before I knew it was related to the church. I really didn’t imagine that these buildings would have a history that is intertwined.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Beaten by the French and Indians. Which part of this did the proto-americans play? (oh, none, it seems) – and using the French, well, need I go on? Maybe I should. Is this the same British that burnt down the White House in 1814? Grin…..

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Joanne Sisco says:

    The developers from the 1960s and 70s have a lot to atone for.

    An interesting bit of Pittsburgh’s history. I’m sure many people who’ve been to a hockey game have wondered about the nearby church (I’m not a hockey fan, so I’m trying to play nice here ;) )
    I loved the magnificent entrance on both the church and the Union building … but neither can complete with your disclaimer that Norm is not a robber baron, bishop, or the Devil ;)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Joanne. I totally agree about the planners and developers of that era. They messed up the town I live in today, and we have never really recovered. This area of Pittsburgh is still dealing with problems from the decisions in the 60s.

      When I see these odd looking situations, hockey arena/big beautiful church, I think you have to look for a story.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Paul says:

    Some fantastic doors here, Dan, though my favorite part is the “Bridge of Sighs.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      The courthouse and jail has always fascinated me, every since I was a little kid. It is a beautiful complex, and I’m sure there’s a gazillion stories.

      The Monday after we were there, they started selecting jury members for Bill Cosby’s trial in that building. (The trial is in Philly).

      Liked by 1 person

  24. jesh stg says:

    History is not always nice – I just can’t imagine a whole neighborhood bulldozed off the map! That the church is called the “Epiphany” (even though I know it’s a common name for a Catholic church), and it makes sense to me, because this morning I woke up from a dream that seems like an epiphany to me (to difficult to explain in a few lines)..

    Wish I had your gift of finding the history behind a building! By the way, I appreciate you coming by my blog weekly and leaving a “like.” Right now am scrambling for time to get back to (blog) people, wishing I had more:)

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Anonymous says:

    Great photos, Dan, and I really enjoyed the history. I love the courthouse and Bridge of Sighs, if the road was flooded it would look like Venice.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. reocochran says:

    Did you know in our town we have a large PPG company building? One of my oldest daughter’s friends (who has her Master’s degree!) sits on a stool and makes sure others put the paint can lids on tight.
    I had to tell you this just so I wouldn’t later have to add a “p.s.” :)
    The Union Trust building has the glitz, pomp and circumstance abounding! I do love the design of the shield or crest.
    I particularly enjoyed the pretty pink toned coral in the church building, the arches are so ornate and intricately molded! I like the interesting connection and how the church benefitted a twice but at the expense of huge loss of city dwellers.
    The prison was a pretty additional building, Dan! it is also one where it may serve its purpose but casts a heavy pallor over the scene. . .
    I am wondering if any other urban chuches have early am church services for both (newspaper) workers and late night club or party goers. All around very fascinating post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Robin. I though all these buildings were interesting but I didn’t know they shared a history. I’ve always liked the courthouse/jail, ever since I was a little kid.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Of course, I have to add the PS about the paint can lid checker. Clearly an important job, but…

      Liked by 1 person

      • reocochran says:

        I would expect a response on this strange job! Thanks for the PS. :)
        She makes almost as much as a well paid, city teacher. She liked the stress-free position. I know it would be an improvement over my job but I am going to stick to my ten years and leave next June and find a caring helper position with either special needs or as a childcare/nanny.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Dan Antion says:

          There’s more to life than money. There’s something to be said for a stress free job or doing something you enjoy. I left a stressful environment, years ago for one that allowed more time with my family and greater freedom at work.

          Liked by 1 person

  27. dennyho says:

    A great collection of door photos making me a bit homesick for the place I called home for a short while. I did not know about the Bridge of Sighs – interesting fact and I will look for it the next time I am in town. Congrats on your Stanley Cup win…difficult for me to offer this up as a Caps fan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks. I like to think it was the shirt I bought while in town that brought them good luck, but they were playing Ottawa at that point. We were in the city the day of game 2 and driving home the day of game 3. My daughter and I were listening to the game on the Pens app. Hard to follow hockey on the radio ;)

      I’ve loved the courthouse/jail building sine I was a little kid. I remember my mother explaining the bridge to me.

      Like

  28. Glynis Jolly says:

    I wish ‘the powers that be’ would realize relocating family and neighborhoods is NOT urban renewal. It is urban destruction. It is a beautiful church.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      The late 50s through the early 70s were a time of some very stupid planning decisions. The town I live in in CT is still trying to recover from the destruction of its quaint little downtown area in the 60s. The Hill District in Pittsburgh is still trying to recover.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. That’s a beauty! I love old churches.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Mél@nie says:

    nice doors, nice pix, of course…:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Aunt Beulah says:

    I liked looking at and learning about these photographs, Dan. My neck of the woods has nothing to compare.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Jennie says:

    You outdid yourself on this Doors post, Dan. Not only are the doors beautiful, the stories and history are fascinating. Thank you! I’m a hockey fan- you’ll love this story! Many years ago (many is an understatement), I attended the annual NAEYC conference, which happened to be in Toronto that year. On the plane with fellow teachers, the coordinator of the trip said, “I have booked our hotel beside a botanical garden.” We thought that was pretty cool. “Maple Leaf Gardens.” I laughed my head off. I was the only one who knew it was a hockey arena. They were disappointed. I was thrilled!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      That’s funny, Jennie. I hope you got to see the Maple Leafs. I started out following the Pittsburgh Hornets. When they joined the NHL they changed their name to the Penguins. I wonder if anyone thinks I’m visiting a zoo when I go down to see a game. Although, this time, we saw both ;)

      Liked by 1 person

  33. AmyRose🌹 says:

    Fascinating history lesson here, Dan. I really mean that. My eyes were glued to this post. What a unique history this church has had. And then the part when the surrounding area was razed down to the ground, I groaned out loud at the thought that progress, if you can call it that, must hurt so much. LOVED this post and awesome pictures! 🌹

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Amy. Pittsburgh enjoyed a wonderful success story when they tore down waterfront warehouses and reconnected the city and its rivers. They still benefit from that today. This area ruined people’s lives, tore families apart and destroyed many small businesses. And, as with the urban renewal project in the town I live in in CT, they didn’t have s plan so very little of that promised development ever occurred.

      Like

  34. Great pictorial post with some great narrative and history! The Twilight Zone reference brings back some memories of that series (LOL). The church entrance displayed an impressive set of doors but all of the doors and buildings were great images. If they kept the 2:30 a.m. church services they could have given it a nickname “PPC” (play – party – confession services) ;)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks! A 2:30 am PPC mass might just give the people celebrating after a hockey game time to sober up. I guess that’s not the point, but I bet the collection plate would be full if the Pens won.

      As for the Twilight zone reference, I always liked that statement, but I haven’t seen it used anywhere else/

      Liked by 1 person

  35. A magnificent entrance indeed, but what I find the most striking is the monument. So many emotions. “All of you” is reassuring, but he seems quite worried.

    Liked by 1 person

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