Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jewish Temple of Beth Sholom

The Temple of Beth Sholom congregation was a result of a merger between the Rodef Sholom and Beth Zion congregations in 1976. The building itself was constructed in the 1940s, being completed in 1951, on 700 Indiana Street in the Westmont borough of Johnstown. Built in a modern yet non-specific style, the Temple is constructed of brick and stone.

Between 1905 and 1951, five synagogues were built in Johnstown to serve the Jewish community. The first three reside in the city of Johnstown while the other two were constructed in suburban Westmont. Before the influx of Russian Jewish immigrants in the 1880s Johnstown had had a small Jewish community. The years 1889 and 1920 saw the chartering of three Jewish congregations—Rodef Sholom, Beth Zion, and Ahavath Achim—all without synagogue buildings. But, in 1906 the first Jewish services were held in the newly built synagogue of Rodef Sholom. Until that time, services were held and Hebrew taught in Jewish homes throughout the community.

The inconvenience of the distant downtown synagogues motivated the Jews living in the Westmont and Southmont boroughs to construct synagogues within the area. During the 1940s, the congregations of Beth Zion and Rodef Sholom planned for new buildings. Alexander Sharove, a well-known Pittsburgh architect, was contracted to design both buildings. The Beth Zion Congregation had its synagogue built on 700 Indiana Street on a nice plot of land which later became the site of the Beth Sholom Temple.

In 1976, Rodef Sholom and Beth Zion merged congregations and became Beth Sholom—a mixture of the two names. Not being able to afford to maintain two buildings, they sold the site of Rodef Sholom to the Ferndale School district, which was converted into a much needed elementary school. Beth Sholom is now the sole Jewish temple in the Johnstown area.

Because of the merger between the Reform Beth Zion and Conservative Rodef Sholom congregations, a compromise had to be made. On Friday nights, a more Reform service with an organist and mostly English liturgy is held while Saturday morning sees a Conservative service with no organist and mostly Hebrew liturgy.

The exterior of the building consists of two perpendicular rectangular structures of brick and stone. A menorah decorates the front of the building; while stained glass windows that depict Jewish holidays, designed by A. Raymond Katz, decorate the perimeter of the sanctuary.

Inside the sanctuary, one can see the decorative stained glass as well as plaques which memorialize past congregants. In the center of the bimah, or pulpit, stands the Holy Arch which holds six Torah from the previous two Temples. Above the bimah hangs the eternal light, symbolizing the light of God, while a representation of the Ten Commandments proudly displays the Law.

Across the hallway from the sanctuary, the rich heritage of the local Jewish community is displayed in an extensive archive display which contains a restored nineteenth century Torah scroll that was rescued from the 1936 Johnstown flood. An adjacent social hall is decorated with a mural from the original building that depicts Moses wandering in the desert. The rest of the interior is painted with Old Testament stories by the Sunday school children.

Name: Temple of Beth Sholom
Location: 700 Indiana St., Westmont, PA
Religious Affiliation: Jewish
Date of Construction: 1951
Architect: Alexander Sharove (Pittsburgh, PA)
Building Style: Modern
Plan Type: open hall
Primary Materials: Brick, stone
Status: Active

Beth Sholom Congregation website
Personal interview with Rabbi Irvin Brandwein, Temple Beth Sholom, November 4, 2010.
Arlene Johns and Angie Berzonski, ed., Domes and Spires (State College: Jostens Printing and Publishing, 2008)

researched by Maxwell Hancsak

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dunmyer Lutheran Church

Located at 547 Schoolhouse Road in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, this church has a Congregation of the North American Lutheran Church and a Lutheran Core Congregation. That congregation has over 150 years of service, and its mission statement is to carry on the work of Christ.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized under the supervision of Reverend Peter Salem in 1849, at the farm of Lewis Donmyer in the area of Dunmyer Cemetery which was part of Richland Township at that time. Services were held in this home and barn until the first church was erected on a plot of land belonging to Lewis Donmyer. Subscriptions for the church were started in 1853. The first communion that was recorded was held in August of 1853 with 33 members in attendance. In 1855 service were held once a month, but in 1856 services were held every two weeks. In 1859, Rev. Kuhlman became the pastor of a four-church charge, called the Jefferson Mission, which consisted of Jefferson, Sidman, Scalp Level, and Elton Lutheran Churches. The first communion was held in July of 1859 and preaching was once each two weeks in each of the congregations. It was during the latter part of the nineteenth century that the movement began to change the location of the church to the Village of Elton.

The corner stone for the new church in Elton was laid in June of 1898. Dedication of the church took place in the spring of 1899, at which time Rev. William Spangler preached the dedicatory sermon. The old church was sold to the Mennonites, who moved it to a site just above Salix. During the pastorate of Walter Smith, who resigned in June of 1961, plans were formulated for an addition to the church but were eventually abandoned.

After much inquiry and negotiation, the 8.22 acre site on Schoolhouse Road, one mile from the old site, was purchased at a cost of $20,000 from the Berwind Corporation. The site was blessed in October of 1967. Burt-Hill and Associates, Butler Pennsylvania, was engaged for architectural service and completed a master site plan. The master plan was adopted by the congregation in 1969. The old Dunmyer Church was totally destroyed by arson torch of three teen-age youths not related to the congregation in 1969.

In October of 1970, dedication services were held. There was a sanctuary unit, five classrooms, an office, and restrooms. All were in the first unit of the master plan. The church was open to the general public in November, along with the laying of the corner stone in mid-November. Some updates and revisions have been made, but the church structure today is still similar.

There are many interesting features of the church including the inside and the outside of the church. Viewers can appreciate these features at any time and are welcome to attend services on Sundays.

The churches shape is interesting for different reasons. As one looks at the churches fa├žade, it might be noticed that the actual building is shaped to replicate the form of a cross. Above the entrance is a cross, which also helps define the shape of the building. The additions were built to look similar the stone look of the original building, and the buildings location with nature gives the church a spiritual feeling.

As one walks through the entrance, down the aisle is the altar. The ceiling has arches, which seem to mimic Romanesque vaulting. There is a central aisle between the rows of pews, and alter is the center focus of the building. Though there are plenty of windows for lighting, none of them are stained-glass.

The church has a relatively small congregation and the style and size of the building give this religious place an inviting feel. The church is not ornately decorated, which adds to the welcoming sense, and there is also a sense of peace and harmony within the building.

Name: Dunmyer Lutheran Church
Location: 547 School House Road, Elton, PA 15934
Religious Affiliation: Evangelical Lutheran
Date of Construction: 1969-70
Architect: C.B. Murray
Building Style: Modern
Plan Type: open hall
Primary Materials: Brick, stone
Status: Active

Dunmyer Lutheran Church Congregation and Pastor

researched by Karl Hofmann

St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church

St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church is located in the historical Cambria City district of Johnstown, an ethnically-rich working class neighborhood noted for its churches. The original wooden St. Mary’s was founded by Reverend Hilarian Dzubay on October 7, 1895 as a Byzantine Catholic Church primarily for Ruthenians (Carpatho-Rusyns, or eastern Slavs). A larger brick church was built in 1901 to accommodate the growing congregation. Planning for a new church began in 1918, with the Pittsburgh church architect John T. Comes selected to design the building large enough to seat 900 people, and was modeled after the Hagia Sofia in Constantinople. The cornerstone was laid on July 5, 1926, and the new church was dedicated on November 30, 1922.

St. Mary’s has a unique Byzantine revival design, elaborately decorated, with a Greek cross floor plan with equal sides. The physical elements that make this building stand out are its domes, which are characteristic of Byzantine revival design; there are two domes on either side of the entrance and a larger dome in the center of the church. Each dome has a lantern on top of it. Arches also flank the entrance. The brick on the exterior of the church has intricate patterns. The capitals have floral ornamentation and the towers have porthole openings. The roof is tiled and the building has inset tiles. Upon entrance to the building there are large vaulted ceilings. The windows are round-arched and circle the dome, which gives a magical appearance when the sun is shining through.

Name: St.Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church
Location: 411 Power Street Johnstown, PA
Religious Affiliation: Greek Catholic
Date of Construction: 1920-22
Architect: John T. Comes (Pittsburgh, PA)
Building Style: Byzantine Revival
Plan Type: domed Greek cross
Primary Materials: Brick, stone
Status: Active

ExplorePA History website about Cambria City
Church website
Brief history on Pittsburgh Catholic Acheparchy website

researched by Cacie Jo Wrye

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

A modern-style church, this building's open interior reflects the guidelines set forth for church construction under Vatican II, which stipulated that the church’s interior is open so that everyone can see everyone, allowing for an intimate environment.

Located in the Eighth Ward (which includes the neighborhoods of Osborne and Roxbury), this parish was found as a result of a quickly-growing local Catholic population in the 1920s. Concerned about a lack of adequate parishes in the area, local families petitioned the Reverend John J. McCort, Bishop of Altoona, concerning the building of a new parish, and he appointed James B. Hebron as Reverend of the new church named The Church of Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The first mass was held on an adjacent street in the basement of the high school, while Father Hebron was placed in residence on Edison Road where he held masses during the week. Both locations were though unsuitable for holding mass, the parish purchased land on McKinley Avenue, for $25,000, and a further $40,000 was raised by the parish to erect both a church and rectory planed by Father Hebron. Construction began in the spring of 1927, and was completed by October 1927. In 1938, two additional wings and some brick was added to the church, at a cost of $13,000, as well as a bell tower. These additions made the church look more welcoming and ornamented.

In 1968, fire consumed the original building and shortly after, Alfred D. Reid and Associates was chosen to build the new church. More land was acquired and building began on June 17th, 1969; it was completed on June 21, 1970. The total cost of the new building exceeded $555,000. In
the 1980’s and 1990’s many small repairs and additions were made to the church such as landscaping and the acquisition of an organ.

As you approach the church you will see that the exterior of the building is in a rectangular tiered design with a box shape completion. There are six long vertical stained glass windows, three on each side. The structure is brown brick, with a flat roof typical of a modern catholic church and the top of the building has a concrete colored border. A post-and-lintel formation near the entrance of the building has three bells suspended to one of the horizontal pillars. The three bells possibly symbolizing the Trinity. The building is rather plain and lacks the attractive colored brick and stone with pitched roofs of previous generations. Outside of the structure there is a white statue of the Virgin Mary and a brass, shaped globe that has an arrow through the center of the sculpture.

The entrance of the church has two wooden doors that are surrounded by a dark timber wall of paneling. This is the church vestibule. When you enter the small vestibule you are greeted by a statue of the Virgin Mary that has more humanistic characteristics than the one outside. The Virgin Mary in the vestibule is painted a flesh color and the clothing is in color as well which gives it a more realistic quality to the sculpture. Adjacent to the Virgin Mary is the holy water casing that is circular in shape and has a metallic finish to the lid as well as the cross located on top of the container to represent Jesus and his sacrifice. Surrounding these two figures are three stained glass windows that have many jewel tone colors as well as other shades of the spectrum. This is the portion of the church for meeting and greeting before and after the church service.

Walk through the vestibule; turn to the left to enter the church. The center aisle is present to the altar. On either side of the aisle are wooden pews for seating. Compared to most churches this church is small in size and seating. The carpet is red wine in color and the ceiling is completely white, which is made of wood. The ceiling has four suspended, rectangular segments that have lights on each of the four segments. This is the main light for the building.

The altar is the next portion of the church that is colorful. There is dark timber paneled wood on the back walls of the altar. To the right of the altar you will see another sculpture of the Virgin Mary placed on a small wooden mantel. Directly left of the altar you will see a sculpture of Joseph who is also placed on the wall aligned with the statue of Mary. Behind the altar is a large mural of a levitating Jesus with a halo around his head. Surrounding Jesus are many colors, but primarily yellow, red, and brown. This signifies Jesus’ resurrection and is a recognition of Jesus’ love for everyone and his selflessness. There are two podiums for readings of scripture and announcements to be made during mass. They are made of wood and cloth is placed on the front of both podiums. Lastly, there is a large wooden altar that has a blue cloth laid on top of it and has a yellow crown in the center of the cloth.

On the sidewalls you will see a total of four banners, two on each side, descending down from the top of the ceiling. The banners have two candles and one star sewn on the cloth. These are probably seasonal banners representing advent. Suspended pictures of the Stations of the Cross are placed on the side walls. Each picture conveys the agonizing fate of Jesus’ journey of baring the cross and finally being nailed to the cross. Each side wall has three large vertical stained glass windows that are multicolored, starting from the floor and ending at the top of the ceiling. The main material on the walls is made of a bland light brown brick.

Deacon John Sroka, from The Church of The Visitation of The Blessed Virgin Mary, personal communication, December 8th, 2010, stated that the church seats 550 people. The building is set under the Second Vatican rules, which stipulate that the church’s interior is open so that everyone can see everyone and it allows for an intimate environment. He did not have historical information to share. The pamphlet on the history of the church is not available anymore.

The churches built today tend to be more modern looking like movie theatres and businesses. Occasionally, there are steeples built on the building, but not with the high spires of the past. Part of this change may reflect cost. This also may signify a change in the need for the church to be visually located in a time when GPS is available and church bells are not needed to alert of disasters. Most interestingly, steeples were similar to the pyramids and the ziggaruts of past architecture where the people believed that the building reached its hand closer to heaven or to the gods. Some Christians believe that the steeples therefore have a non Christian connotation. Standard religious symbolism is not used as much in the new churches. This is done to make newcomers feel at home and believe in a new kind of church reaching their needs with less judgments and rules of the past. Many Catholics, including myself, draw comfort in the symbols of our faith. Some appreciate a church steeple with its beauty and view it as a reminder of a greater power that we can both aspire to and be one with. Fortunately, the Catholic Church still relies on symbols to express its’ faith.

Name: Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Location: 1127 McKinley Road, Johnstown, PA
Religious Affiliation: Roman Catholic
Date of Construction: 1969-70 (after original 1927 building destroyed by fire)
Architect: Alfred D. Reid
Building Style: Modern
Plan Type: open hall
Primary Materials: Brick, Cement, Stained Glass and Wood
Status: Active

Church website
George W. Reid "Steeples and the Church." Biblical Research Institute.
Telephone Interview with Deacon Sroka. 7 December 2010.

researched by David Reasbeck

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church

In the small city of Johnstown St. Mark’s Episcopal Church is a place of worship, like most churches. The church has a certain sense of security, almost embrace, from the surrounding buildings.

The Episcopal Church had a presence in the city of Johnstown since 1855. The first St. Mark’s church was built in 1874, but was destroyed by the flood of 1889. The Great Flood of 1889, as the locals called it, was a great disaster for the city, region, and nation. The flood ravaged the city of Johnstown along with St. Mark’s and left them both in ruin. The flood was estimated to have killed 2,200 people and was the first major disaster that the American Red Cross responded to. The city and the church were left a strewn across the valley. It took the city many years to recover; the church was rebuilt after only 2 years. It was commemorated in 1891.

The new church incorporated the only two salvaged objects from the original church: the wooden altar and the church bell. The new church is in a Romanesque revival style. The large rugged stones, steep roof pitch, and solid walls typify this. There are elements that are not Romanesque in nature like the large rose window and pointed arches. The plan of the church is a modified basilican plan. It features single side aisles along an open nave.

Since the completion of the new church in 1891 a number of other structures have been built. The most notable is the memorial garden. The garden was created to remember those who lost their lives in the flood of 1889; 120 of the perished were members of St. Mark's.

Another new addition to the structure is the bell tower. A newly constructed bell tower top was added recently and includes the original church bell from the original church.

The church is open to the public during normal mass hours. If one visits outside of the masses go to the parish office and they will be more than willing to help.
Other than the church itself the site offers a Memorial garden that has its own labyrinth. This labyrinth is based on the same eleven-circuit labyrinth inlaid in the floor at the cathedral in Chartres, France. The Greek philosopher Herodotus created the term labyrinth. It is to represent one’s life path.

Johnstown is a city with a rich history and much to see. The Johnstown National Flood Memorial is about ten miles north east of the city in a town know as South Fork. South Fork was originally located on a medium sized lake and was a resort town for the wealthy, like the Carnegie and the Mellon families. The dam holding back the lake gave way and thus causing The Great Flood of 1889. Today there is a memorial and some nice walking trails around the site. Another place to visit near St. Marks in particular is the incline. Located across the Stoneycreek tributary this unique hillside trolley gives a great view of the greater Johnstown area.

Name: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
Location: 335 Locust Street, Johnstown, Pa, 15901
Religious Affiliation: Christian – Episcopalian
Date of Construction: 1889-91
Building Style; Romanesque Revival
Plan type: Basilican
Primary Material(s): Stone
Status: Active

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Website
David McCullough’s The Johnstown Flood

researched by Sean McFadden

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Holy Name Roman Catholic Church

“We, the people of God in Holy Name Roman Catholic Church, are called by our Baptism to be a community of faith, empowered by the spirit of Jesus Christ. As members of the body of Christ, we commit ourselves to a lifelong ministry of evangelization and service.” (Msgr. Gaus)

The Catholic congregation in Ebensburg was founded around the year 1827. An old frame church was built across the street from where the present church is located. The date and architect of this church is unknown, but it is know that it was dedicated to St. Patrick. It is said that this building was erected by Judge Murray but was not regularly used for many years. An account of the congregation states that Rev. Patrick Rafferty was the first pastor.

The origin of the brick church that is used today was built during Father Christy’s incumbency around the year 1865. Through the congregation’s and the Father’s efforts, the church was built at a cost of $25,000, and the name “The Church of the Holy Name” was given at its dedication done by Bishop Domenic.

In 1910, Father O’Neil instigated the formation of the Holy Name School. This was the first Catholic School in Ebensburg. At this time, three nuns came to Ebensburg to teach in the new school. This school began with one classroom, but in 1953 four more rooms were added on and completed in 1954. Presently the Holy Name School has eight classrooms, a social room, a cafeteria, and the student body has grown from 87 to near 400 students.

The current structure was constructed by L. Robert Kimbell, and dedicated by Bishop James Hogan on February 25, 1968. Information received from Msgr. Gaus, the Pastor, gave insight on the architecture used. The church is a basilican/octagonal type plan, starting as rectangular and then rounding it. The church is mainly build of brick, although it took many curved metal girders, plaster, and glass. There is a steeple atop this church is apx. 100 feet high. The purpose for this is so a part of the church can be seen from many entrance directions coming into town, so everybody knew where the church was. The interior is free of visible means of support with the structure consisting of a compression ring at the center and a tension ring at the perimeter walls thus giving a clear dome like space. The apex of the steeple is directly over the altar, helping to make it the focal point.

As you are approaching Holy Name, the steeple is the first thing you notice. The top, and last 20 feet of the 100 foot, steeple is a cross. You can see this cross standing high over many homes and businesses in Ebensburg.

Entering the church is very welcoming. The outside is basically brick, with a large entrance of windows. It is also highlighted by the clerestory windows that lie below the soaring white roof that rises to its apex. These windows contain a rhythmic pattern of lines and colors, which creates an overall pleasing pattern on the exterior. When first entering the church, you first enter into the vestibule, which also contains windows of pattern of lines and color.

Within the church, the Altar of Sacrifice grasps your attention. The altars, pulpit, lectern, and baptismal font are mostly made of Botticino marble, all carved and polished in Italy. Suspended above the altar is a figure of the risen Christ. Four walnut blocks on aluminum crossbars suggest the cross. The figure itself is made of lindenwood, hand-carved in Italy. Holy Name can seat more than 900 people, but there is no seat closer than 75 feet from the Altar of Sacrifice.

On the vinyl-covered nave walls hang the Stations of the Cross. These were also hand-carved in Italy with gold leaf lines. These plaques are contemporary in design but have a realistically portray the scene. The walls are topped with Clerestory windows made of mouth-blown antique glass. These windows also contain a pattern of line and color, leading from the narthex up to the sanctuary. At the same time the brightening of colors lead from the sanctuary to the narthex indicating the brightness of God’s grace going out into the world from the Altar.

Besides the play of the clerestory windows, this church does not contain much ornamentation. It is very contemporary with the latest decree concerning the sacred liturgy and is artistically and aesthetically pleasing!

Throughout the year there are many festivities held at the Holy Name Church and School welcoming people from everywhere. I would highly suggest visiting this church to witness for yourself the pleasing beauty it holds. Attending any of the church’s festivals (usually one during each season) is a great opportunity not only to see the church but to interact with the community!

Name: Holy Name Church
Location: 500 North Julian Street, Ebensburg PA
Religious Affiliation: Roman Catholic
Date of Construction: 1965-1967
Architect: L.Robert Kimbell and Herman Pietrolungo
Building Style: Romanesque/Gothic/Contemporary
Plan Type: Octagonal
Primary Materials: Charcoal brick, plaster
Status: Active

Website of Holy Name Catholic Church
Rev. Msgr. Arnold L. Gaus, Pastor

Researched by Jessica Pelleschi

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Beulah United Methodist Church

Beulah United Methodist Church (formerly Beulah Evangelical Church) is the spiritual home for 600 members in the eastern Johnstown neighborhood of Hornerstown. It is also one of the grandest designed churches in the Johnstown area, distinctively located along the much-traveled Bedford Street.

Although the church was founded in 1891, construction of the current building began in 1921. Dedicated on Sunday, March 8, 1924 by Bishop J. F. Dunlap of Cleveland, the building’s construction cost $140,000. J.C. Fulton and Son of Uniontown, PA designed the structure, with construction carried out by church member and superintendent of building operations, Garfield Small. The Building Committee employed a foreman and building crew, eliminating contractor profit, saving money for the church. The church was also the first in the city to contain a fireproof location for records. On dedication Sunday, almost 4,000 people attended three services and collections amounted to over $21,000.

The building is of Greek Classical design and includes various classical elements from the large green dome, to classical gabled roofs, and four Ionic columns at the front entrance. The primary construction materials included white Kittanning brick, limestone colored art stone, 60 tons of structural steel, stained glass windows, and dark oak. The building contains amenities that were very modern at the time including a low-pressure steam heating system and plumbing that was top-notch when installed. The pipe organ was built by A.J. Schantz & Co., of Orrville, O. to the specifications furnished by Prof. Curtis Amps, who played the organ for the church.

The entrance contains two sets of double doors oriented 90 degrees from the front face of the building and positioned under the porch and facing each other. The twin entrances to the main floor auditorium are at 45 degree angles and face the center of the room under the large, interior, back-lit, stained glass dome. The interior dome is approximately 30 feet below the external dome and that space contains much of the structural steel of the building.

The auditorium additionally contains twin balconies oriented opposite each other on the sides of the room and the rear contains a wall which opens to reveal additional space and a room with a large, flat panel of stained glass overhead. Behind the balconies are large stained glass windows which light up gloriously in the sunlight thanks to the favorable location that the church was constructed upon, one of the better locations in the city for sun exposure. The stained glass windows contain four emblems with names of saints on them: St. Matthew, St. John, St. Luke, and St. Matthew.
In the basement, below the auditorium the building contains a social room with a raised platform and the rear of the basement area consists of a dining room, a kitchen, and a class room. The rear portion of the first and second floors contains the areas for administrative duties, Bible classes, and other church activities.

Name: Beulah United Methodist Church
Location: 716 Bedford Street, Johnstown, PA
Religious Affiliation: Methodist
Date of Construction: 1921
Architect: J.C. Fulton and Son (Uniontown, PA)
Building Style: Greek Classical
Plan Type: Domed central-plan
Primary Materials: white Kittanning brick, limestone color art stone, sixty tons of structural steel, stain glass windows, and dark oak
Status: Active

Domes and Spires (published by the Tribune Democrat and Johnstown Magazine, 2008)
Article from “The Evangelical Messenger” March 24, 1924
Attached floor plan from church archives
Church website

researched by Thomas Brown