Vandals and burglars have been destroying the vacant but historically designated St. Nicholas Church on Route 28 in Troy Hill for more than a year, but the parish has chosen not to prosecute three known perpetrators.
"We caught three people in the act" taking scrap metal on April 12, said Sgt. Kevin Gasiorowski of the Pittsburgh police burglary squad. One man was in his 50s and two were in their 30s, he said.
The Rev. Daniel Whalen, administrator of the St. Nicholas parish, which is based in Millvale, said the church is in disrepair beyond the damage burglars could cause. His position has been that the church should be demolished.
The parish, which combined its congregations in Millvale in 1994, has been trying to sell the church for years. Late in 2009, the diocese entered a sales agreement with Lamar Advertising but no transaction has occurred.
Father Whalen said the parish and the diocese were still trying to work out a sale to Lamar, but preservation interests are holding it up.
Preservation organizations and the Northside Leadership Conference announced plans late in 2009 for reusing the church as an immigration museum, but that is dependent on investors and donations.
Jack Schmitt, a member of Preservation Pittsburgh and the Preserve Croatian Heritage Foundation, asked Councilwoman Darlene Harris to help secure cameras to deter burglars, who "have been taking interior things for over a year," he wrote in an e-mail. "Private parties have been paying to re-board the doors and windows."
The church was part of the oldest Croatian congregation in America, but an older church on the North Side was the original church, said Father Whalen.
The Troy Hill church was closed by the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 2004, but it had been granted historic status by the city, which precludes outright demolition.