First Presbyterian Church
The First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, located at 320 Sixth Avenue, is one of the oldest Protestant entities west of the Allegheny Mountains. The church building, constructed in 1905, stands next to the Trinity Cathedral and is one of the early 20th century Gothic churches that dot the urban landscape of downtown Pittsburgh.
The roots of Presbyterianism in Pittsburgh go back to 1758, when the British defeated the French at Fort Duquesne. After the battle, a small group of Presbyterians gathered with a young Presbyterian minister, Charles Beatty (Chaplain to General Forbes), for a service of praise. This group continued meeting together, and in 1773 the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh was born.
First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh was incorporated by an Act of the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on September 29, 1787. In that same year, 2.5 lots of ground along Sixth Avenue were deeded to the congregation by the heirs of William Penn. On this land, originally used as an Indian burial ground, the church's first log building was constructed. In 1805, as membership grew, a second building, made of yellow brick, was erected. The new structure was built around the small log church so that services could continue while progress was made on the new structure. This second building served until 1853 when an even larger church was erected.
In 1903, the cornerstone was laid for the present church. Construction was completed in 1905 and a dedication was held on April 16, 1905. The church building, now over 100 years old, is ornately decorated, but outside and inside. The sanctuary is distinguished by fourteen memorial stained-glass windows. In addition to these major stained glass windows, there are 253 other stained and leaded glass windows throughout the church.
The Tiffany windows are unique in that they are painted on fine, specially made Tiffany pastel cathedrals and then backed with a plating of Tiffany opalescent and Favrile (hand-made) glass, all set in specially milled double-high heart lead made to house the double layer of glass. These are the only such windows in which this process was executed by the Tiffany Studios; thus they are a one-of-a-kind collection. Because of the placement of the balcony in the sanctuary, it appears that each window is two separate windows—upper and lower. However, each is one complete window measuring 26 feet high and 7.5 feet wide.
The Fourteen Tiffany Stained
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