Smithfield United Church of Christ
The Smithfield United Church of Christ was founded in 1782 by German immigrant farmers and merchants that settled in Pittsburgh. The church building at the corner of Smithfield Street and Strawberry Way, built in 1927, is readily identifiable by it's unique steeple, which is visible from countless vantage points in downtown Pittsburgh.
The Smithfield Church is actually the fifth church at this location, and the sixth overall, to serve the congregation, which although it has strong Lutheran traditions, welcomes diversity and values religious freedoms.
The first church building was a one-room meeting house, built in 1783, located at Diamond Alley (Forbes Avenue) and Wood Street. In 1787 John Penn, Sr., and John Penn, Jr. (the grandson and great-grandson of William Penn), in order "to promote morality, piety and religion," granted to the congregation a 240' x 110' plot of land along Smithfield Street, between Sixth Avenue and Strawberry Way. It was large enough for a meetinghouse, a parsonage, and a cemetery. The first church to occupy this space was built in 1792.
In 1815, the original building at Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue was replaced by the much larger third church that seated 200 on the main floor, with a gallery seating 20. It was around this time that the congregation became identified as the German Evangelical Protestant Church. It was the first such church in the world.
To serve the growing congregation, a fourth church was constructed at Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue in 1833 that included school rooms and a second-floor sanctuary. A fifth, much larger Gothic-style church, with a 218-foot tower, was built in 1875-77.
Construction of the sixth building, the one in use today, began in 1925. This time the church would be located at the corner of Smithfield Street and Strawberry Way. The building was consecrated in December 1926, and officially opened on the congregation's 145th anniversary in October 1927. The church is now known officially as the Smithfield United Church of Christ, or just the Smithfield Church. Inside the ornately decorated sanctuary are the inscriptions "Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe" and "Ein' feste burg ist unser Gott" that honor the church's German heritage.
Currently, the church facade is ready for a long-overdue restoration. The outside of the church building is veiled with a large screen to keep falling masonry from hitting pedestrians on the sidewalks bordering the structure. Church officials are presently seeking the funding for the restoration efforts. One source of funding comes from the lease of some of the original church grounds. The congregation still owns all of the original church property, which has been commercially developed and provides a reliable source of capital to help sustain the church operations.
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