Regretfully, the roof of the long-abandoned Church of the Transfiguration in Buffalo, New York collapsed during a storm yesterday.
The Rust Belt defines a vast declining industrial corridor of the United States roughly between Chicago and Albany, New York, and dominating many of those once-bustling communities are churches. Many were built as domestic steel mills were being constructed across the country in the early 20th century, and many were closed with the collapse of the steel industry.
The industrial heart of the Rust Belt is western Pennsylvania as once-mighty steel mills, coke plans, and machine shops, scattered alongside railroads, rivers, and highways, have downsized and closed. A globalized economy and increased automation led many jobs overseas; what remained was a shell, unable to be self-sustaining without government intervention.
The Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church is located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was host to a Slovak Catholic congregation. Designed by F.W. Wilson of McKeesport in the Gothic Revival architectural style, the building’s stance on the side of a hill, with its 150-foot tower, was to evoke a commanding presence over the Monongahela River valley.
St. John Berchmans Catholic Church and Servite Catholic High School is located on the east side of Detroit, Michigan and operated as a combination church and school. It’s first iteration, as St. John Berchmans Catholic Church and elementary school and Servite Catholic high school, lasted until 1986. It reopened in 1996 as the Colin Powell Academy, a charter school, that lasted until 2010.
Over the summer, I was able to venture into the closed St. Mark Catholic Church in Cincinnati, Ohio to photograph more of its intricate elements, and to follow up on two prior visits. Located in the Evanston neighborhood, the parish was dedicated to the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, and during its first fifty years, there were 24 priestly vocations, which included one bishop, two religious brothers and 36 religious sisters.
For far too long, cities in the United States have taken the case of rehabilitation of historic properties with a grain of salt. It is typically done towards the end-stage for a neighborhood, when there are precious few buildings left to save or when gentrification has set afoot. But what happens when there is no case of future rehabilitation of a particular neighborhood, when the building is stripped, gutted and left to collapse upon itself?