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Former Prison And Church Worth Saving, Local Preservation Group Says

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA
SCI Pittsburgh on the North Side opened in 1826.

State Correctional Institute Pittsburgh and Saints Peter and Paul Church are among the Pittsburgh area's historic sites to preserve, according to a new top 10 list by the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh. The organization created the list to highlight sites at risk of demolition, with the goal of breeding new life for the buildings.

“If you don’t have a trained eye and you see a dilapidated building, [someone might say], ‘Oh my goodness, what an eyesore.’ But if you say to the person, ‘Well so and so lived here and it was significant for that or this,’ [they'll say], ‘Oh my goodness, we should save it,’” said Matthew Craig, executive director of the YPA.

The 137-year-old SCI Pittsburgh, which closed in 2017, is located on the North Side along the Ohio River. YPA says the prison was creative in how it socialized inmates, and created a workforce that made shoes, chains, cigars and other items. 

Saints Peter and Paul Church in East Liberty appeared on the list for a second time. The YPA recently partnered with East Liberty Development Inc. and Partners for Sacred Places to work towards finding a community use for the church.

“The only way to save a building of that size is to bring everyone together and have a conversation about it,” said Craig.

Other sites on the list include the angular LRDC Building in Oakland, Highland House in Highland Park, and Froggy’s in Downtown. It also lists Hammett Place in Wilkinsburg, a multi-site restoration project that is listed on the National Historic Registry.

“You can’t save every single solitary piece of brick that was ever put into mortar. But we can be discerning about what we should not lose,” said Craig. “We can be aware of the architectural history that we would be at such a loss if it were gone.”