Greensburg Houses of Worship Open for Westmoreland Historical Society Tour
The Westmoreland Historical Society has a new focus for its annual home tour. Instead of featuring private residences, the tour will include seven historic places of worship in downtown Greensburg.
On September 17, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Main Street Greensburg Historic Houses of Worship Tour will give attendees an in-depth look at the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish ecclesiastical history of Westmoreland County.
The buildings are also important to the history of art and architecture of the region, displaying the work of renowned architects, craftsmen and stained glass workers working at the time of construction, from the late 19th to mid-19th century. of the XXth century.
“There are a variety of different spaces, from large like the cathedral to more intimate like the synagogue,” said tour co-chair Clinton Piper. “It shows the wide range of religious congregations in Greensburg, which runs the gamut on Main Street.”
The shift from private to public spaces was due to lingering concerns about accommodating large crowds in small spaces.
“When we first started talking about this tour, given the covid issues, we weren’t sure the owners would still be willing to bring people back to their homes,” Piper said. “Places of worship are bigger, mostly public places.”
Organizers first approached seven congregations on Main Street.
“Greensburg has so many that we just started there, and they all said yes,” Piper said. “It wasn’t meant to exclude anyone, it just happened. If it goes well this time, maybe we’ll try again.
Although the tour is primarily self-guided, congregational representatives and historical society volunteers will be present at each location to provide information and answer questions. Since the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral will only be open for one hour, this part of the visit will be guided.
“Congregations are very excited about opening up to visitors,” Piper said. “They are really invested in welcoming people and sharing their knowledge.”
Sights, from north to south, include:
Blessed Sacrament cathedral, 300 N. Main — open 11 a.m. to noon only. Completed in 1928, the grand neo-Gothic style church replaced an earlier brick building dating from 1887-88.
Pittsburgh architects Comes, Perry and McMullen designed the church’s cruciform plan. It is constructed of sandstone from Neshannock Falls, Lawrence County, and bounded by Indiana limestone. The central tower rises over 100 feet and contains four bronze bells that were gifts from early industrialist Thomas Lynch. From 2010, the cathedral underwent a large-scale restoration.
Congregation Emanu-El Israel, 222 N. Main — open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. only, masks required. Built of Ohio stone, the temple was dedicated in October 1951. Six predominantly blue and white stained glass windows, each invoking a different holiday in the Jewish faith, help illuminate the sanctuary. CEI has a rare set of Hebrew braille Torah scrolls, handmade by Rabbi Leonard Sarko, to help people with visual impairments.
of Christ Church, 145 N. Main – Also a Gothic Revival style building, the church is constructed of gray sandstone, probably quarried locally, topped with a slate roof. The use of red oak wood accentuates the ceiling, while the chancel floor is made of Georgian marble. Completed in 1891, the church has 20 windows from major stained glass workshops, including one by Tiffany.
Trinity United Church of Christ, 139 N. Main — The current brick building, designed by an unknown architect, dates from 1880. It has a central entrance with towers on either side. An original large spire was removed at an unknown date, with the original bell placed in the adjacent cemetery. In addition to the towers, the facade features decorative brick details with sandstone accents around doors, windows, and arches.
First Evangelical Lutheran Church246 S. Main —Architect MH Griese’s current building opened on April 11, 1886, and has been updated and expanded several times: in the 1920s, 1948, 1959, and 1998. A new Austin organ was was installed in 1984, marking the bicentennial of the congregation in Greensburg.
First Presbyterian Church, 300 S. Main – Three other buildings preceded the present church, a classic example of English Gothic Revival architecture modified by Boston architectural firm Cram & Ferguson. Dating back to 1918, it was constructed of jointed granite from Massachusetts and limestone from Indiana. Woodcarving is present in the pulpit, the lectern, the communion table, the pews and the balustrades of the choir and the balcony. Memorial stained glass windows, installed between 1921 and 1964, tell biblical stories from the Old and New Testaments.
First Church of Christ, Scientific, 425 S. Main – The first wood-frame church building was constructed on the site in 1920. A comprehensive remodel in 1953-54 included an addition by famed Greensburg architect Paul A. Bartholomew. Updates included the construction of a new main entrance with a concrete staircase, a glass facade, a spire above the west entrance, a Sunday school hall, and a library.
The historical society will also host its annual Toast the Tour cocktail party from 6-8 p.m. on September 9 at The Woodlands, off Harvey Avenue in Greensburg, designed by Bartholomew for Robert and Margaretta Marshbank in 1938. The evening will include cocktails and hearty hors d’oeuvres from Rizzo’s Malabar Inn, plus a private tour of the Colonial Revival-style house.
The exterior of the first floor of the house is Cleveland cut stone, with wood shingles on the second floor and gables. Ironwork supports an arched window and the roof over the front door. The interior features hardwood floors, molded borders, a central hall extending the depth of the house, a carved staircase, a sunken living room with bay window and large fireplace, and an expansive terrace bordered by plantings and native rhododendrons.
Tickets for the cocktail are $75 and must be purchased in advance.
Advance tickets for the tour are $25, while tickets on the day of the tour will be $30. Each ticket includes a booklet with historical information and photos.
All tickets are available at the Westmoreland History Shop at Historic Hanna’s Town, 809 Forbes Trail Road, Hempfield; by dialing 724-838-1800, extension 210; by emailing [email protected]; or online at westmorelandhistory.org.