Only memories left as former St. Cecilia demolished

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When Nancy Piazza-Whaby was a child in the 1960s, her father, Robert L. Grice, converted to Catholicism.

She often accompanied him when he went for instruction to the Rev. Charles Peterman at St. Cecilia Church in Glassport.

"There was a concrete sidewalk that we traveled on behind the building to the church," she recalled. "In my young mind, I thought it was a path to heaven."

Ms. Piazza-Whaby, now Glassport secretary, said she also remembers picking violets that grew on the church grounds to make a bouquet for her mother.

Those are among the memories Ms. Piazza-Whaby treasures of St. Cecilia, which is being torn down.

The century-old building, near the intersection of Ohio Avenue and Eighth Street, has been vacant for more than a decade.

The demolition, which started this month, is expected to take two more months. The borough acquired funding for the project from a $215,000 Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund grant through the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County.

Council President Terry DiMarco said the building had become a hazard, with youngsters setting fires and transients setting up makeshift living quarters inside.

Regardless, he hates to see the borough landmark go.

"I think it's a sad thing because there are a lot of memories for those who went to school there and were later married there," he said. "Now memories are all that is left."

The first time the borough applied for a grant years ago to demolish the building, it was rejected. This time, Mr. DiMarco said, he asked the Twin Rivers Council of Governments to write the application and it was approved.

The first Mass was celebrated in St. Cecilia on July 21, 1901. As the town grew, land was donated for a larger church.

On March 26, 1911, the first Mass was celebrated in the building, with the school on the first floor, church on the second.

In 1994, due largely to the decline in the area's economy and population, St. Cecilia merged with nearby Holy Cross parish to form the new Queen of the Rosary parish.

As part of the merger, St. Cecilia was closed and was sold soon afterward.

The building eventually was acquired by the Glassport Heritage Society. After that organization's members died, the borough deemed the structure a nuisance and safety hazard.

Mr. DiMarco said once the demolition is completed, the borough will level and landscape the site.

"We hope to find someone to do something with it," he said of the site.

neigh_south

Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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