1991: Worship at the old St. Nicholas Church
It’s an odd coincidence that on Monday, as officials celebrated the end of construction on Route 28, we found in our archive two strips of misplaced negatives showing the interior of a church that was demolished as the road was being widened.
The negatives fell from a box of 30-year-old prints. They document a 1991 service at the old St. Nicholas Church on East Ohio Street. A sparse crowd of about 35 people sit in the sanctuary of what was the first Croatian Catholic Church in North America. Most likely, the worshippers were gathering to pray for their relatives and friends caught up in the Croatian War of Independence, which had just begun.
St. Nicholas was demolished several months ago. It hadn’t been used in years. In 1994, it was merged with St. Nicholas Parish in Millvale. The church there, also named St. Nicholas, is noted for its stunning murals by Croatian artist Maxo Vanka.
Organizations such as Preserve Croatian Heritage Foundation and Preservation Pittsburgh joined with community members in an attempt to save the historic structure. They convinced PennDOT to alter the design of Route 28 so the church could remain, but in the end the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh determined the church was a financial burden had it demolished.
In an interactive panoramic picture of old St. Nicholas posted on the PG website in January 2010, the church appears somewhat forlorn, its doors and windows covered in plywood. Nearby, traffic can be seen backing up along Route 28.
We certainly appreciate being able to travel more quickly and safely along one of our region’s busiest roads, but we miss seeing the iconic onion domes of the old church at the foot of Troy Hill.