In the Cambria City neighborhood of Johnstown, PA, Partners for Sacred Places is working with local community leaders and residents to find new uses for three significant historic churches - St. Columba’s, Ss. Casimir and Emerich, and Immaculate Conception – that were closed in 2009 after five parishes were merged into one by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
With funding raised through Save Our Steeples and the Johnstown Regional Partnership, Partners was retained to help lead the planning process, together with the Johnstown Area Heritage Association and the EADS Group. The months leading up to the charette centered on forming a steering committee to help carry work forward after its conclusion.
Over the weekend of November 18th to 20th, more than 100 members of the community turned out to tour the churches and brainstorm ideas for new uses. Suggestions included performing arts venues, an indoor rock-climbing studio, and a conservatory and restaurant – to name just a few. Architects who attended each session then created renderings of several re-use ideas.
UPDATE, January 2012: Ownership of the three closed churches was recently transferred to the Steeples Project, a newly formed, local non-profit that will oversee the care of the properties as well as raise funds to redevelop them. Read more in this article from the Tribune-Democrat.
UPDATE, August 2012: Preservation Pennsylvania awarded the Steeples Project the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Annual Theme Award for their work to “raise the funds necessary to purchase, maintain, and redevelop these wonderful historic resources and enhance Johnstown’s quality of life.” Read more about this honor in the Steeples Project press release.
Links to media stories about the event
- May 2, 2010, Tribune Democrat: Nonprofit to Study Cambria City Churches
- November 15, 2010, Tribune Democrat: Church “Brainstorming”
- November 16, 2010, Daily American: Workshops Slated to Save Cambria City Churches
- November 18, 2010, Tribune Democat: Churches Reincarnate
- November 19, 2010, Tribune Democrat: Workshop Attendees Offer Ideas for Vacant Churches
- November 20, 2010, Tribune Democrat: Food, Entertainment Among Proposed Uses for Churches
- November 25, 2010, Our Town: Project Focuses On Preserving Churches, Heritage
- December 4, 2010, Tribune Democrat: Church Visions: Images From Idea Sessions Released
- December 7, 2010, Hurst Media Works (Westsylvania): Vacant Churches Are Community Assets
- December 20, 2010, Our Town: Meetings Generate Ideas for Future of Churches
- January 2012, Fox 8 TV: video story on the purchase of the churches
- January 25, 2012, Tribune Democrat: Sacred Places Get New Start
- January 25, 2012, Daily American: Restoration of Cambria City Churches Begins
- January 25, 2012, WJAC TV: Non-profit Group Takes Over Three Cambria City Churches
- January 27, 2012, Altoona Mirror: Historic Churches to Get New Life
- January 26, 2012, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Old Cambria City Churches Receive Hope of New Purpose
- January 29, 2012, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Nonprofit Gives New Life to Three Closed Churches in Johnstown
View the PowerPoint presentations made at the charette