Natrona Heights Presbyterian earns grant for roof repairs

A nearly century-old church situated prominently along Broadview Boulevard in Harrison was among 17 religious sites to earn a recent grant from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

Natrona Heights Presbyterian Church, built 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 about $10,000 to repair.

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

“Many slate tiles have blown off and continue to blow off year after year.”

In addition, the roof on the tower is flat and has lifted. It needs a rubber roof installed.

“Some of the seams have separated and need work,” Gourley said. “Some of the gutters have pulled away from the roof and have caused water to come into the entranceway.”

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

Gourley hopes to see the work begin in April.

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

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

Other grants awarded across the region 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 doled out to 17 congregations in the most recent funding cycle. The money will leverage more than $2.3 million raised by the congregations for restoration and maintenance projects at each of the historic sites.

Work ranges from cornice repair to masonry, roof, wooden doors, stained glass and stone masonry.

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

At Natrona Heights Presbyterian, there is a bevy of programs that include Bible Bunch, youth group, Word Walkers and a mom’s group.

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

Frank Stroker, the foundation’s director of historical resources and collections, said the church is recognizable for its Gothic revival design.

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

“It is a stone church with a tall Gothic window in the street elevation rising through the gable,” Stroker said. “It anchors a block of small suburban houses dating to the early 20th century, as well as being an important community institution on the major traffic artery.

“Its wide, squat bell tower to the rear is an unusual architectural element.”

There is no written record of who designed the building.

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

“These great houses of worship represent some of the most impressive architecture in our region but are very expensive to maintain,” he said. “Because religious groups are generally ineligible for capital improvement grants available from public sources, we launched the program so that these buildings would remain vital parts of our neighborhoods for years to come.”

Farkas said the foundation is the only nonprofit in Allegheny County that offers a continuing program of financial and technical assistance to historic religious property owners.

Since 1997, it 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 a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, or via Twitter .

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