Mapping Our Progress




The Historic Pittsburgh Maps Collection is a wonderful on-line resource of the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania at the Heinz History Center.  Among the maps are city atlases and plat plans - street-by-street maps identifying property ownership and indicating major buildings.  These documents were updated periodically and show a remarkable amount of detail of the shape of larger structures.  They serve as a diagrammatic record of the three churches that served Shadyside Presbyterian over the years.  (See also Church Growth)


1872 - Atlas of the Cities of Pittsburgh, Allegheny and Adjoining Boroughs: Plate 63 (Click on link for the church under “Buildings on Current Map)

First Church Building


The 1872 version shows our original frame structure (completed 1867) which occupied the space where the Chapel is now.  It accurately depicts the “T” shape of the church on the corner property (highlighted in green) along with what is likely the manse.  Surrounding properties bear the familiar names of Shadyside Church founders and early leaders:  Negley, Aiken, Pitcairn, Renshaw and others.  Note that street plans have altered over the years.  In particular, Pitcairn Avenue - shown here connecting Ellsworth to Fifth - is today just half a block long terminating in a cul-de-sac.  Pembroke Place was named Dahlia Street. Elmer Street occupied the present Amberson Place.


1886 - Atlas of the Vicinity of the Cities Pittsburgh and Allegheny: Plate 31 (Zoom in near the “S” in Pittsburgh )

Second Church Building

An 1886 map from the Allegheny County Atlas is of slightly different character than the Pittsburgh plats.  The Gothic Revival second church is seen just above the “e” in Westminster alongside the original building (above the “t”).  The manse is not shown on the property - which appears to be bounded by a street connecting Amberson and Pitcairn, north of the church through the location of the present Parish Hall.  Careful observers will note that the properties are much larger than those found in the neighborhood today.  In part, this reflects the rural nature of Shadyside.  In part, it hints at the comfortable means of residents.  This is during the time nearby Fifth Avenue was developing into “Millionaires’ Row.”  The property is depicted eleven years after the second church was completed and four years before the third was completed.

1904 Volume 2 - East End of Pittsburgh (North): Wards 18-21 & 37: Plate 1

Third Church Building with Vestibule

By 1904, the plat plan shows the present church (1890) and chapel (1892).  Although they have always been joined by an arcaded ambulatory, the delineator shows a separation - perhaps because the walkway is not completely closed.  He pays close attention to detail, showing a projection of the building at the front entrance (near the “S” in Shadyside).  This represents a wooden vestibule, apparently appended to reduce draftiness in the sanctuary, a problem before the narthex screen was added in 1920.  Since this draftsman was so careful, one wonders what he was showing with the projection at the lower left hand corner of the church.  It does not conform to the outline of the south porch and it disappears in later plat plans.  The right-of-way to the north has been abandoned and the property owned by Mary Porter Lincoln, a donor for another landmark church close by - First Baptist on North Bellefield Avenue.  Across Westminster from the church is the property of her brother, George Loring Porter, also important in the construction of First Baptist.


1923 Volume 2 - East End (South): Wards 7 and 14-15: Plate 5b

Front Entrance

Two external modifications appear on the 1923 plat plan:  the chapel was extended northward in 1908 and the front vestibule was removed after a narthex was created.  A pathway passes between the church and chapel, through the present cloister, and approaches some sort of small out building at the northeast corner of the property (seen in lower left of photo).  The manse is carefully drawn, as it was in the 1904 plan.  The A. R. D. Gillespie home on the opposite corner of Amberson & Westminster was a later manse for Shadyside.   By now, the only vestiges of the Pitcairn Street right-of-way are dotted lines on the map.  Perusal of other parts of this map show that many Fifth Avenue mansions still exist, but some of the larger properties near the church have been divided into smaller plots.


1939 Volume 2 - East End (South): Wards 7, 14 and 15: Plate 5

Comparison of 1923 & 1939 Detail

The relatively minor changes to the outline of the church buildings in the 1939 version do not hint at the major changes to the church interior.  Superficially, only a connection between church and chapel and a small semicircular apse appear.  In fact, the worship space transformed from a central-pulpit, Victorian theater-style auditorium to a sleek, divided-chancel, Word and Sacrament sanctuary, influenced by the ecumenical movement.  The connection to the chapel housed office space.  This remodeling, after a decade of national economic depression, evidences the ample resources and abiding faith of the congregation seventy years ago.  Shadysiders of today would recognize the configuration of streets and homes seen on this plan.


Detail from Topographical Map

After Parish Hall Addition

The Historic Pittsburgh Maps Collection ends with 1939, but the church, chapel and early 50s Parish Hall addition can just be discerned on a US Geological Survey topographical map.  The Parish Hall included fellowship-gymnasium space, a stage, classrooms and a kitchen.  At the same time, the chapel was remodeled and renamed in honor of Shadyside’s beloved long-time pastor, Hugh Thomson Kerr.

Aerial View from Google Earth


Under Dr. Kerr’s successors, Howard Scharfe and Robert Cleveland Holland, the church and its ministries continued to grow.  The need for classroom and meeting space led to a “north porch,” mirroring the shape (but not exact size) of the original entrance porch on the south.  Over a century, as the congregation and its mission increased, corresponding structure was added, where and how the functional needs dictated.   Today, mapping data is gathered, not on the ground, but by aerial and satellite photography.  Shadyside’s “organically grown” shape is seen in this view from Google Earth.

Continued growth is seen in the additions and alterations which are a part of the church's Building Community ministry theme.

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