In most cases, growing up in Duquesne in its heyday meant a very strong emphasis on the essential parts of developing a strong character. Education, hard work, honesty, family, and staying healthy shared roles in the formation of our character along with an equally strong emphasis on our spiritual life and religious foundation. Testimony to our parent’s and grandparents strong religious and educational convictions was the fact that by 1902, Duquesne boasted 40 public schools, parochial schools and SIXTEEN churches. The city was a mere 10 years old at the time, but the population was already well over 10,000 residents.
In 1902, The Observer was Duquesne’s newspaper. That year, the newspaper published an Industrial – Historical Supplement to The Observer, Duquesne, Pa which provided some very interesting insight into some of the 16 churches in Duquesne. As we approach Easter Sunday and during this very special time of the Christian religious year, I thought it would be appropriate to learn more about the churches of our youth.
The sixteen churches that were part of Duquesne’s early history and were described in the Historical Supplement were as follows:
- Church of the Holy Name (Irish Catholic Church)
- St. Joseph’s Catholic (German Catholic Church
- Holy Trinity Catholic Church (Polish Catholic Church)**
- Greek Catholic Church of St. Nicholas (Greek Catholic Church)
- Grace Reformed
- First Presbyterian
- The Swedish Lutheran
- First Baptist
- First Christian
- First Methodist Episcopal (First M.E.)
- English Lutheran (First English Evangelical Lutheran Church)
- Church of Christ (Church of Our Redeemer)
- Slavish Congregational
- Jerusalem Baptist
- Episcopal Church
- A.M.E. Church (African Methodist Church)
- St. Hedwigs (Slavish Catholic Church)**
**The 1902 Duquesne Observer Supplement INCORRECTLY identified Holy Trinity as the Polish Church when it was actually the Slavish Church AND INCORRECTLY identified St. Hedwigs as the Slavish Church when it was actually the Polish Church.
The church that is the nearest and dearest to my heart, of course, is Holy Name Church, my family’s church and my grade school alma mater. We, like most families, had the same area that we sat in each Sunday. Our family always sat on the right hand side of the church in a pew nearest the outside wall and about three-quarters of the way back in the church. My perspective and memory of the church’s interior was somewhat static since we always sat in the same place. It wasn’t until I became an Altar Boy that I got to see the church from different perspectives.
The Observer’s 1902 Supplement described Holy Name as follows:
Rev. Father Jeremiah O’Callaghan organized the Church of the Holy Name during the summer of 1890, and in August of the same year was appointed resident priest. The first services were conducted in a room over the present store of Joseph C. Wolf on South Second street, near Camp Ave. In 1890 Charles Downey loaned a lot at West Grant avenue and S. Fourth street to the congregation and in 1890-1891 a comfortable frame building was erected on it. This was used as a place of worship until November 12, 1899, when the structure was destroyed by fire. Prior to this time, however, the late Byron Cochran and niece, Miss Zella Bovard had donated a site for a proposed new church and rectory at the corner of South First street and Kennedy avenue. The corner stone of the church edifice was laid, amid imposing ceremonies, on July 30, 1899. The building was completed in due time, and its occupancy dates from Christmas, 1900. Finished and furnished, the edifice cost about $58,000. It is the finest church in the town, is 74×135 feet, constructed of Pompeian vitrified brick, with Cleveland sandstone trimmings, and with a seating capacity of 800. A parochial residence adjoining the church, was finished July 22, 1899, at a cost of $7,000. It is occupied by Rev. Father David Shanahan, who succeeded Father O’Callaghan as priest in November, 1897. The congregation worshipped for some time following the fire in the First National Bank building. A magnificent pipe organ, the gift of Andrew Carnegie, was completed in the church on February 16, 1901, at a cost of about $6,000. The parish as present numbers 1,500 souls.
In 1990, Holy Name celebrated its 100th Anniversary with a celebration entitled “Jubilee of Generations.” In the Memory Book that was published in celebration of the event, additional information about Holy Name’s history was presented:
The Reverend Jeremiah O’Callaghan organized a parish in Duquesne which was eventually to become known as Holy Name Church. The congregation, who’s Mother Church was Saint Agnes on Thompson Run in West Mifflin, first held services in Wolfe’s Hall. Wolfe’s Hall was a room above a store on South Second Street and Priscilla Streets near Camp Avenue.
Later in 1890 a frame building was erected on a ploy of land located on South Fourth Street and West Grant Avenue. This land was loaned to the congregation by Charles Downey. The Church became known as St. Killian’s and Fr. O’Callaghan was appointed as resident priest.
In 1897, Fr. David Shanahan succeeded Fr. O’Callaghan as pastor of St. Killian’s. St. Killian’s continued to grow as a worship community until the building was destroyed by fire in 1899.
The Irish-Catholic community continued to hold services. The new temporary location was on West Grant and Duquesne Avenues, above the First National Bank Building……………………..
…………..The first Mass at Holy Name was celebrated on Christmas Day 1900. Formal dedication of the church was held on November 24, 1901.
…..………For the first 91 years, Holy Name Parish was under the Spiritual
Leadership of Irish priests in keeping with its ethnic determination. Fr. Jeremiah O’Callaghan was the first pastor. He served the community from 1890 till 1897. He was succeeded by Fr. David Shanahan. In his 24 years, Fr. Shanahan witnessed the destruction by fire of St. Killian’s and saw the birth of Holy Name. During the Depression era, Holy Name was ministered to by Fr. David Walsh. In 1936 and for the next sixteen years Fr. James J. Kelly was the pastor. 1952 marked the beginning of the eighteen years of spiritual leadership of Fr. William P. Shaughnessy. In 1970, following the death of Fr. Shaughnessy, the assistant pastor, Fr. Joseph R. Bryan was appointed pastor. Fr. Bryan ministered to the needs of the parish until ill health forced his retirement in 1894. It was then that a 91 year old tradition was broken and the first non-Irish pastor was appointed. Fr. Dennis Colamarino was appointed as the Spiritual Leader of the Holy Name worship community.
I found these facts about Holy Name to be very interesting. As mentioned earlier, my recollections of the building were somewhat skewed by the fact that I always viewed it from the same vantage point. However, I was always awed by the immense leaded glass windows that lined the north and south sides of the church. Unfortunately, I don’t remember each individual window and promise to photograph them on my next trip to Duquesne, with Father Dennis’ permission. The windows I do remember were the north side windows. The center and largest window depicted Jesus teaching the children. I recall him sitting on a rock and the children and a lamb gathered around him. To the left of that window was one that illustrated Jesus teaching in the temple and my favorite to the right portrayed the nativity.
There was a magnificent window behind the pipe organ as well as behind the altar. The huge white altar was in place when I became an altar boy. I was surprised to see yet another beautiful window that was behind the altar, although obscured by the mere size of the altar itself.
Originally, the church had a soaring steeple on the front left hand side of the building that contained a clock. The steeple was apparently toppled during a weather related event and was never rebuilt. Its existence is verified however in the photograph of the worshippers approaching the church at the turn of the century. Interestingly, that photograph also shows a row of homes on the south side of the church as if there were another street or alley that ran parallel to Holy Name. I dug through some old maps, but could not find any evidence of the homes next to the church, but remain fascinated about them.
I find it fascinating how much of an impression some of the smallest details made as I looked at many of the interior shots of Holy Name. For instance, I had totally forgotten about the speakers that hung down the main aisle, the iconic paintings that adorned the soaring side walls over the confessionals. I remember the paintings reminding me of the small religious cards we used to buy from the school’s religious article table. I “think” I recall the icon paintings being painted by artists on scaffoldings when the church interior was being updated as opposed to being applied in pre-printed forms. I tried to show as many photos as I could, however, if anyone had any photographs of Holy Name that you would like to share with all of us, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org!!
In future postings, I would love to continue to share the information contained in the Observer’s 1902 Supplement with you. Attached to this posting is a survey that will indicate which churches you’d like to hear about. Choose your church from the list, or write in the house of worship. In the meantime, keep well and stay in touch!!