History & Landmarks Foundation Calls for Religious Revival in Preservation

Article excerpt

When Swissvale United Methodist Church needed exterior repairs costing $12,000, church officials turned to a Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation program that has provided about $700,000 to preserve 100 religious buildings in Allegheny County since 1997.

Foundation officials hope this summer to restart the program, which they suspended last year because of the slumping economy. It was the first time in the 13-year history of the Historic Religious Properties Program that it was placed on hold, said Arthur Ziegler Jr., foundation president.

"Without it, we could not have done the work. It made the difference," the Rev. Dai Morgan, pastor of Swissvale United Methodist, said about the $3,000 grant the church received from the foundation last May.

The $31,000 in grants handed out in 2009 were down from the $75,000 to $80,000 typically awarded through the program because of the sluggish economy, said George C. Dorman, chairman of the Historic Religious Properties Committee. Requests last year totaled more than $170,000.

"The financial meltdown hit us hard," said Dorman, whose committee delayed its grant program until it could raise $75,000. Officials hope donors will respond to a funding challenge that would allow it to restart the program.

"As it turned out, this decision, while fiscally necessary, could not have come at a worse time, in light of winter storm damage to numerous area historic properties and a decline in regional disposable income," Dorman and Landmarks Chairman Mark Stephen Bibro said in a letter sent last week to supporters. …