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First Baptist Church, McKeesport, PA

February 3, 2016


This is sad. Real but very sad.

With apologies for the distortion from google.maps, this discovery was the downside of the afternoon. John C. Fulton, an architect from Uniontown, Pennsylvania, designed dozens of churches in an exceptionally long career, extended by a successor firm continued by one of his children. Despite being located in southwestern Pennsylvania not far from the West Virginia border, Fulton’s practice extended as far as Idaho, Oregon and California and several points in the heartland, though the majority of his churches were in “rust belt” cities of his home state. Declining population has decimated much of Pennsylvania and taken its toll on the multiple Akron-Auditorium buildings that Fulton (and the firm of Fulton & Butler) produced from the late 1890s to well beyond World War One.

Doing some background work on Fulton today and a virtual visit to McKeesport, this was what greeted me. This building for First Baptist is typical of his red sandstone designs in a low slung personal interpretation of the Gothic Revival. I see Gothic details and Richardsonian proportions. But I also see a derelict building, badly vandalized and possibly scheduled for demolition — before the arsonists take matters into their own hands, that is. Surely creative financing could re-imagine First Baptist as housing for the elderly, a public auditorium, even possibly as a youth center for the very people who may have harmed the building beyond redemption. This is another important part of the “infrastructure” that might be saved if only Congress would get off its collective ass.

PS: Stumbling around the internet today (not a good thing for me because it’s like popcorn: you don’t know when to stop), I found a wonderful website devoted to derelict buildings. What to my wondering eyes should appear but sixteen interior photographs of the building shown above. Since the images are copyright, just click here for a gander. Since the blogger granted permission to use his/her photos, here is a teaser:


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