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Home Working with Section 106 ACHP Case Digest Summer 2004 Pennsylvania: Demolition of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Somerset County
Demolition of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Somerset County
Agency: U.S. Department of Agriculture
In 2003, a biomedical research company requested a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a new building in the Windber Historic District in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Somerset County, Pennsylvania (photo courtesy of Charles Fox, Somerset Historical Center)
In anticipation of receiving the loan, the company bought a deteriorating church building and had it demolished before the loan could be approved. As Federal money, the loan would have triggered Section 106 review of the projects effects on the historic church.
Site of the former St. Mary’s Church (photo: ACHP staff)
Built in 1927, the church was a contributing element to the Windber Historic District and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was designed by Johnstown architect Walter Myton in a Romanesque Revival style, with a domed central tower, paired side towers, and a cladding of mottled tapestry brick.
The church was founded and led by a Hungarian/Hungarian-American population until the building was demolished in 2003 by the biomedical research facility that purchased it for the land. The companys actions could be considered anticipatory demolitionwhen an applicant destroys or harms a historic property to avoid Section 106 review.
A Memorandum of Agreement was signed, however, to mitigate the adverse effect of removing the church, and is expected to have a positive effect on the community.
The agreement was signed among parties including the ACHP, the biomedical research company, the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Officer, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Windber Area Historical Society.
It requires, for example, that the new research facilitys design be approved by the State Historic Preservation Officer. It also states that the company will install a plaque and interpretive sign on the site.
The architect for the future facility indicates that stones from the churchs foundation will be incorporated in a monument wall outside of the new building, as a tribute to former parishioners and the historic preservation community.
In addition, the company will help donate materials from the church to a local museum and prepare an educational display on the church and its congregation.
The company will also work with local organizations to promote heritage tourism, provide training on historic preservation for elected and civic leaders, and prepare a Historic Preservation Plan for the boroughs historic district.
Staff contact: Stephen
Posted August 9, 2004
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