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First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh receives $200,000 historic preservation grant

Partners for Sacred Places awards more than $2 million to 15 faith communities

from Partners for Sacred Places | Special to Presbyterian News Service

First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh has been named one of 15 places of worship to receive more than $2 million in preservation grants from the National Fund for Sacred Places. (Photo courtesy of Visit Pittsburgh)

First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh has been selected by the National Fund for Sacred Places (“the Fund”) as one of 15 historic congregations across the United States to receive grants in support of renovation or restoration projects.

According to a news release from Partners for Sacred Places, the Fund manager, the awards support congregations with buildings that have historical significance and architectural character and that play an essential role in meeting the larger social, economic, and spiritual needs of the communities they serve.

Located at 320 Sixth Avenue in the Steel City’s downtown, First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh’s historic building is the fourth on this site, which was deeded to the church by the heirs of William Penn. The first building was a log cabin. First Presbyterian Church is one of the oldest Protestant entities west of the Allegheny Mountains.

The roots of Presbyterianism in Pittsburgh go back to 1758, when the British defeated the French at Fort Duquesne at the point of Pittsburgh’s three rivers. Historian Gary Scott Smith, the author of “A History of Christianity in Pittsburgh,” has written that First Presbyterian Church is “Pittsburgh’s oldest institution, predating any newspaper, school or business.”

The Rev. Tom Hall is senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh.

The church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Tom Hall, explains the significance of this award to both his own congregation and the city it serves: “The grant recognizes not only the remarkable beauty of the building and the historic significance of the church, but also the impact the congregation is making today in the heart of the city. We are humbled and blessed.”

The grant of $200,000 will help the congregation replace the slate roof over the sanctuary, which is nearing the end of its 125-year life expectancy. The congregation also plans to make the property more accessible, sustainable and better able to support the church’s outreach efforts.

During these uncertain and turbulent times, both large and small congregations are being challenged to care for and share their historic buildings in new ways that benefit both members and their larger communities. The Fund recognizes their contributions and seeks to support their efforts.

“The 15 sacred places selected to join our Fund this year are more than beautiful houses of worship. They are irreplaceable civic assets that provide invaluable resources to their communities, sharing space for everything from COVID-19 vaccinations to nutritional food programs and childcare programs,” said Bob Jaeger, president of Partners for Sacred Places. “I am so pleased that we have tailored programs that preserve and uplift civic assets to improve communities and enrich lives. Over the next few years, the team at Partners for Sacred Places will work closely and collaboratively with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to help awardees to renovate their buildings so they can grow their ministries and thrive for many years to come.”

Now in its sixth year, the Fund has been made possible thanks to the generosity of Lilly Endowment Inc. The Fund and its supporters are working together to increase the nation’s awareness of the value, resiliency and vital contributions congregations offer daily.

In addition to First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, the other Fund participants for the 2021-22 program year include:

  • Amana Church Society (Middle Amana, Iowa)
  • Arch Street United Methodist Church (Philadelphia)
  • Calvary United Methodist Church (Philadelphia)
  • First Christian Church (Columbus, Indiana)
  • First Indian Presbyterian Church (Kamiah, Idaho)
  • Grace Episcopal Church (Newton Corner, Massachusetts)
  • Let Freedom Ring Foundation/First Baptist Church (Williamsburg, Virginia)
  • Mount Zion UMC (Washington, D.C.)
  • Sacred Heart Parish (El Paso, Texas)
  • St. Stephen United Methodist Church (Mesquite, Texas)
  • St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church (Brooklyn, New York)
  • St. John’s Lafayette Square (Washington, D.C.)
  • Tabernacle Baptist Church (Beaufort, South Carolina)
  • Washington National Cathedral (Washington, D.C.)

Visit the Fund website to learn more about the program, participants, and the value of sacred places in communities across the country. To find out more at Partners for Sacred Places, go here.

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