Beth Abraham Cemetery

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Yesterday, while exploring Carrick and the surrounding neighborhoods looking for adaptively reused religious buildings, we took a detour through the Beth Abraham Jewish Cemetery.  According to the map we had there were multiple roads through the cemetery. We started on one that went through a section of the cemetery with newer graves and came to a T-intersection with a sign to the right that said Do Not Enter One Way, so we turned left. The road was wide at that point, but went around a sharp bend and quickly narrowed to just barely the width of the car.

This was the original section of the cemetery. The graves were clearly older and were placed head to toe with sides touching. It was the most densely plotted cemetery that I have seen.

Our awe at the density was soon interrupted by the termination of the road we were traveling. Despite my confidence that the map was telling us we could get back to the main road by going straight, that was clearly not an option. Fortunately, there was a side leg of the road right at the point we realized we could go no further.  The width of both paths was perhaps a foot wider than the car. My friend who was driving predicted that a 21-point turn would be required to get us out.  I think we managed it in 10-points.

Once turned around, we went back the way we came. As we reached the main roads and started down the public road that bisects the cemetery, I realized I had been so distracted by looking around and then directing the u-turn, that I missed my opportunity to take a picture of the old section of the cemetery.  Instead, I got some shots of the section to the east of Stewart Ave, which is newer, but almost as dense as the old section.

If you decide to take a trip to this cemetery, I recommend entering through the main gates off of Stewart Ave and pulling off at the wide section of road at the sharp bend. From there, the old section and one of the newer sections are easily accessible by foot, though there may be some steep and uneven portions.

Sacred Row

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This is a fascinating structure I discovered on the South Side Flats. A friend and I were going around the neighborhood looking at adaptively reused church buildings. While going from one building we knew of to another location, we stumbled upon this building. From what I’ve pulled together so far, this building was built sometime between 1876 and 1884 as four rowhouses. In 1926, the Second Greek Catholic St John the Baptist Church of the South Side purchased the property. The deed described the structure as four 4-room houses. When the Second Greek Catholic St John the Baptist Church sold the property in 1959, the deed described the property as four 2-story brick party wall houses.

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However, when you look at the side of the building facing 23rd St, it appears that at one time, this property was used as a church. The middle of the three boarded up openings on this side looks like it used to be a door for an entrance into a church that has been partially bricked up. From this I assume that while the Second Greek Catholic St John the Baptist Church owned the property, they renovated to use as their place of worship with a main front door and two windows.

I look forward to learning more about this structure and its history. I suspect there is an interesting story that connects this building to the 1st St John the Baptist Greek Church which is still in operation at the corner of E Carson St and 7th and the 2nd St John the Baptist Greek Church that set up just down the block at 615 E Carson St before moving to Jane St. From the pieces I’ve found so far there was a severe split in the South Side congregation that involved boycotts and arrests of arguing members and former members.  I’m not sure yet how this rowhouse/church may have fit into that struggle.

 

 

Safety while Traipsing

The Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, a non-profit community development organization in Pittsburgh, is raising funds to buy back guns.  The goal is to get unwanted guns out of the community where they may be stolen and used in a crime or found by a child and played with, causing injury and death.

In the process of raising funds and talking with different people, it’s become clear that not all guns are bad.  Some guns are very useful such as soldering guns, caulking guns, staple guns, salad shooters, glue guns, nail guns, heat guns, cookie guns, water guns, and cameras (which shoot).  Check out the links for each of these guns to see how they can improve communities (more links will be added over the next few weeks).

As an urban traisper, it is important to feel safe as I walk around exploring the city.  I have chosen not to walk the bridges in certain neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, because of safety concerns.  I was excited when I joined the staff of the BGC to hear that they were working on planning a gun buyback to reduce the chances of gun violence in their neighborhoods.  Maybe our work will make a small difference and help lead to broader changes that will improve the safety of the currently troubled areas or those perceived as troubled.

For more about the Gun Buyback Initiative, check out our Razoo page.  While you’re there, please consider giving a donation.  We hope to reach at least $15,000 by August 31.  Thank you!

The Point…of Gathering

A renewed downtown Pittsburgh attraction is a great place on a hot day.  With last weekend’s temperatures reaching near 90, the revitalized Fountain on the point of Point State Park was a popular place to be.

The Fountain

The new “wading” portion of the fountain was enjoyed by families, friends, couples, and pets.

Bathers

Families and Pets

Pittsburghers and Icons

The fountain was also a gathering point for bikers enjoying the Three Rivers Heritage Trail System and Pittsburgh’s bike rental program and kayakers taking advantage of Venture Outdoors’ Kayak Pittsburgh rentals.

Kayakers and Bikers enjoy the Point

The Point is one of the key geographical features that influenced the creation and history of Pittsburgh.  With the rebirth of the fountain, it will continue to be an important attraction in the city.

The Point of...

 

A Lofty Location

St. John German Evangelical Lutheran Church

This little gem in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood is full of surprises.  In the 20-some years I’ve been passing through this area, I never noticed the building.  It was brought to my attention a few years ago when I began researching adapted church buildings in Pittsburgh.  If you are in the nearby vicinity, the building blends into its surroundings.  But from other parts of the city it stands out (see 31st Street Bridge, Bloomfield Bridge, Busway Bridges: Herron Street, Busway Bridges: 28th Street).  It is also visible standing out along the ridge in the second photo in my Washington’s Crossing Bridge post.

40th Street Rise

There are two characteristics that make it stand out from a distance.  The first is its location at the highest point on 40th Street in Lawrenceville.

St John's/Choir Loft Condominiums

The second characteristic is one of the most intriguing parts of this building: the fellowship hall is at ground level and the sanctuary is above, reached by a flight of stairs.  This is the only church building I have been in where the sanctuary is a full flight of stairs above ground level.  I’m very curious to know if there are any others–please share, if you’ve come across one!

St John's Evangelical Lutheran Church Choir Loft Condominiums

The building was built in 1896-97 for the German Evangelical Lutheran St. John’s Congregation, which later became St. John’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church.  In 2002, the congregation merged with St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church and closed the doors on this location.  A real estate agent purchased the property and prepped it for conversion into 3 condominiums–one unit each for the sanctuary, fellowship hall, and parish house–before the current owners purchased the property and completed most of the rehab work creating the Choir Loft Condominiums.  (A side note that may be of interest is that the current owners considered purchasing the building that is now the Union Project but chose this one instead.)

The owner reported that the building was essentially empty for nearly 2 years before he acquired it.  The floors were in bad condition–the pews had been ripped out, tearing the sanctuary’s floor, and the choir loft’s floor was completely missing.  He said his goal in renovating the building was to “not destroy the architecture and the interior.  We wanted it to feel like a church still because it is a church.”

Having gotten a tour of the interior of the sanctuary unit, I’d say they succeeded in this goal.  The former sanctuary space is an open loft configuration with hardwood floors.  The raised steps for the altar area were kept and made into the kitchen.  The choir loft remained open and served as the bedroom.  The gorgeous stain glass windows were also intact.  While I was there on a winter evening after sunset, I loved the description of how the colored pattern from the stain glass gradually moves across the floor like a very colorful sundial.  My other favorite part was that there was still a bell in the tower, which the owner rang for me.  While inside the sound was muffled, it sounded like it could have woken sleeping neighbors.

A Picture for Posterity

Meter Row

As I was walking down Penn Avenue this week, I stopped to take this picture before it was gone forever.  Pittsburgh is joining the ranks of cities that use multispace meter systems.  The city’s individual parking meters are slowly disappearing as they are replaced by the multispace system.  Yet even before the transition began, Pittsburgh’s parking meters were suffering.  A complete row of intact meters marching off into the distance, such as those pictured, has been a rare sight in the city for years.  Usually there are at least a few with their heads chopped off or their stalks bent.  On close inspection, this row did have graffiti on many of the heads and at least one meter was out of order.  However, in the spring sunshine, these meters looked almost pristine with their gold heads gleaming.