Natrona Heights Presbyterian gets roof repair grant

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A nearly century-old church prominently located along Broadview Boulevard in Harrison was among 17 religious sites to recently win a grant from the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

Natrona Heights Presbyterian Churchbuilt in 1928, will receive $5,000 to repair its slate roof.

Church elder Chad Gourley said the roof is original to the building and will cost around $10,000 to repair.

“There are a number of reasons we’re doing this project, but to name a few, it’s a really old roof and it’s slate to top it all off,” Gourley said.

“A lot of slate tiles have blown off and continue to blast off year after year.”

Also, the roof of the tower is flat and heaved. It needs a rubber roof installed.

“Some of the seams have come apart and need work,” Gourley said. “Some of the gutters pulled away from the roof and caused water to enter the entrance.”

Minor repairs were completed last year for the first time in a decade.

Gourley hopes to see work begin in April.

The church was among 23 that applied for the competitive grant, said David Farkas, the foundation’s director of property development.

“The congregation is meaningfully involved in the community, which has helped it stand out,” Farkas said.

Other grants awarded in the area include $10,000 each to Beth Shalom in Squirrel Hill, First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh in Oakland and St. Nicholas Croatian Church in Millvale.

In total, nearly $155,000 was distributed to 17 congregations in the last funding cycle. The money will leverage more than $2.3 million raised by congregations for restoration and maintenance projects at each of the historic sites.

Work ranges from repairing cornices to masonry, roofing, wooden doors, stained glass and stone masonry.

A requirement of the grant is that the building be at least 50 years old and provide a strong social services program, Farkas said.

At Natrona Heights Presbyterian, there are a host of programs that include Bible Bunch, a youth group, Word Walkers, and a moms group.

Farkas said the grants are given not only based on need, but also for the church “providing essential social services to their neighborhoods,” as well as opening the building for community use.

Frank Stroker, director of historical resources and collections for the foundation, said the church is recognizable by its neo-Gothic design.

It is just off Freeport Road at the corner of Idaho Avenue, directly across from another congregation, Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church.

“It is a stone church with a large Gothic window in the street elevation rising through the gable end,” Stroker said. “It anchors a block of small suburban houses dating from the early 20th century, in addition to being an important community institution on the main thoroughfare.

“Its wide, squat bell tower at the rear is an unusual architectural feature.”

There is no written record of who designed the building.

The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation founded the grant program in 1994 to meet a specific need, Farkas said.

“These great places of worship represent some of the most impressive architecture in our region, but maintaining them is very expensive,” he said. “Because religious groups are generally not eligible for capital improvement grants available from public sources, we initiated the program so that these buildings will remain vital parts of our neighborhoods for years to come.”

Farkas said the foundation is the only nonprofit organization in Allegheny County that provides an ongoing program of financial and technical assistance to owners of historic religious property.

Since 1997, he has awarded more than 270 grants worth more than $1.5 million and provided more than 60 technical assistance consultations.

“Every year is competitive, and this year was no exception,” Farkas said.

Tawnya Panizzi is editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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