Church Tour Celebrates History, Architecture

Article excerpt

It cost $480,000 in 1910 to build First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh in the Schenley Farm section of the city. All of the stained-glass windows cost the congregation $6,500.

Today, one set of the windows would cost more than the entire building, according to pastor Gary Denning.

"The window designer was Charles Connick and this was his first major work," says Denning, who has been pastor for 17 years to the 150-member congregation on North Bellefield Avenue. "His last major work was Heinz Chapel, which is unusual for any city."

First Baptist Church and Heinz Chapel are two of the four churches that will be on the fourth annual Houses of Worship Architectural Tour from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. East End Cooperative Ministry is sponsoring the tour, which "celebrates the beauty within our community," says community relations director Suzan Krauland.

"These particular churches are part of our supporting congregations in the East End," she says. "They are of architectural interest, have a rich Pittsburgh history and are in close proximity to each other for 'tourist' ease."

Last year, the tour focused on architect Ralph Adams Cram, who designed three churches in the East End. From this year's churches, First Baptist's architect Bertram Goodhue was part of Cram's firm.

"So, there is a tie to the church buildings we visited last year," says Krauland. "First Baptist's windows also tie into the windows at Heinz Chapel (since) they were done by the same window designer, Charles Connick."

The lovely stained-glass windows in First Baptist Church tell the story of the birth, ministry and teachings of Jesus Christ.

"They're wonderful because you'll see that the colors don't match," Denning points out to visitors. "The idea was if you're replacing stained glass over the years, they wouldn't look the same."

The majestic, stone Gothic Revival-style church was designed by Goodhue in 1910 and completed in 1912. He also designed the National Academy of Sciences Building in Washington, D.C. and the Nebraska State Capitol Building in Lincoln. The church is on the National Register of Historic Places and also has received recognition from the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. …