St. Peter and Paul Church is a former Roman Catholic church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The parish was active from 1860 to 1992.
St. Peter and Paul was established as a German 2 and Lithuanian 4 parish in 1857 in village of East Liberty. 2 Local worshippers had to travel to the St. Philomena Church in the Allegheny River valley to attend Mass.
In 1857, the Redemptorists from St. Philomena began construction on a church on donated land. 2 The cornerstone was laid on November 26 with the new building dedicated on November 26, 1859. Originally a mission of St. Philomena, a resident pastor was assigned to the new parish in 1860.
Growth and a New Building
By 1887, the church building was in poor condition. 2 Construction on Larimar Avenue caused damage to the structure and it was chronically overcrowded.
The original building was soon razed and the cornerstone of a new structure was laid on August 10, 1890. 2 The second iteration of St. Peter and Paul, designed by, Adolphus Druiding, opened on December 20, 1891.
Lightning struck the church and started a fire on August 5, 1909. 2 The roof was burned away and the interior of the church was gutted. The twin towers, walls and altar remained intact. The church building was rebuilt and reopened in late 1910.
The exterior of the church was remodeled in 1916 and the interior saw modernization in the mid-1960’s. 2 The bell towers were repaired in 1982.
The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation designated the church as a historic landmark in 1983. 6
Decline and Closure
The population of Pittsburgh began a slow and steady decline after World War II, dramatically bleeding after many of its famed steel mills began to close in the 1970’s.
With a dwindling congregation, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh announced the mergings of five parishes and the closure of several buildings in July 1992. 4 St. Peter and Paul folded with the others to form the St. Charles Lwanga parish. 2
The Diocese sold the church to Everlasting Covenant Church in 1997. 1 The church had hoped to restore the building for their own purposes and start a charter school in the former school building. In the interim, the Everlasting charter school was held at another site in the neighborhood but folded after five years. 1
The church gained notoriety after serving as the backdrop for the climax for the 1999 film “Dogma.” 3 6
On December 5, 2012, squatters inside the church set fire to the floor while attempting to keep warm. 1 5
East Liberty Development (ELDI) sought $700,000 in loans from the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority to repair the church structure in November 2015. 3 ELDI had entered into a sales agreement to acquire the building from Everlasting for $90,000 in 2014 but had not closed on the deal. The church was assessed at $25,000.
The loan was approved and the church and school was abated for asbestos. 3 The rectory was demolished and the church’s roof and steeples were repaired.
It is estimated that it will cost $9.4 to redevelop the church property as a restaurant or office space and $12 million as apartments. 3