Pennsylvania Church To Fall

St. George Church in Shenandoah, Pa.

Say goodbye to the 1891 church that was once home to the country's oldest Lithuanian Catholic congregation.

The Diocese of Allentown closed St. George Church in Shenandoah, Pa., in May 2006, deeming it unsafe. (Two years later it shuttered more than 30 other sanctuaries in Schuykill County.) Diocesan officials announced last month that St. George would be torn down this fall.

"It can't stay in its current condition because it's a safety hazard. It really comes down to safety," says Matt Kerr, spokesman for the diocese. It will cost between $5 million and $9 million to repair St. George, Kerr says.

Last month four parishioners of St. George filed suit against the diocese to prevent it from tearing down the Gothic structure. Others organized a rally last week in support of the church.

But at a hearing on Oct. 7, Judge Cyrus Palmer Dolbin denied an injunction request, and cleared the path for demolition of the granite and limestone structure.

Today St. George's two 140-foot-tall towers are wrapped in netting to catch loose masonry. Despite repairs in the 1980s and 1990s, the church's facade is cracked; its wood framing deteriorating; and the structural integrity of the towers undermined, according to Pennsylvania-based Foreman Building Commissioning, which presented a report to the diocese last month. The firm's architectural engineer Thomas McCune declined to comment.

Before St. George falls, workers will salvage and store select interior details. The diocese has contracted with Reading-based Empire Services to remove bells, stained-glass windows, and other furnishings at a cost of $317,000, according to a Sept. 25 press release from the Diocese of Allentown.

Kerr says the exact date of demolition hasn't been set, but it will happen "sooner rather than later."


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Submitted by Former parishioner at: May 5, 2010
Doesn't matter now's gone. Our beloved church which we the parishioners, our parents, grandparents, etc worked so hard to keep is a mere rubble. The grandeur of this cathedral-like church is magnificent. What a place of solace it was to many. It is the most heart-wrenching thing you would ever want to see. For those of us who have worshipped in St. George's, and have fought to keep it standing, we know in our hearts we have tried out best. Diocese of Allentown should be damned shamed for what they did. That building was so structurally sound that it took a half year to get it down and the loss of a life besides. Continue to pay off your lawyers for the child molestation by the priests. How many more will you have to tear down at the rate you're going?

Submitted by Koko at: May 4, 2010
No, it wouldn't cost "millions". I've been in a former church that would've made this place look like Mar-a-Lago and know from reports that it can be brought to white box condition with new electric, new plumbing, new HVAC, abatement , landscaping, ADA ramps/elevators, etc and everything for just over a million. So why spend ANYTHING? Because those "millions" create jobs and save landmarks. Jobs you can't export (you can't even understand the tech support people you call when your machine gives you trouble and the ones here aren't working--Gee, wonder if there's a connection) and save landmarks which would be nearly impossible to build today between cost/quality of materials and labor. YOU need to think.

Submitted by demolishler at: April 17, 2010
You say no brick was falling from it? Did you walk in front of it and see all the stones laying on the ground? or the netting on the towers? how about the wall paper peeling off inside? how about the musty smell inside? To fix the church would cost more than to tear it down. And lately lots of churches in the area are closing, so why spend millions to fix it and have it closed down. People need to think.

Submitted by Koko at: February 27, 2010
Build something great. What, Bub? It's amazing how many people wouldn't know "something great" if it came up and bit them. News flash: newer isn't always better and these buildings aren't *(&#@*y strip malls built in 5 minutes with toothpicks and hot glue guns. I admit, you _could_ still build something great, but the costs would be astronomical for the quality of work. I think it says a lot that a building in such "bad shape" cost someone their life 'cos it was so hard to dismantle. Yeah, that must've been falling apart. You're happy after seeing a good usable building being wasted? Difficult question, put the crack pipe down and the thinking cap on: is using fuel for heavy machinery to raze and build and throwing everything into the landfill "something great" for the environment? Didn't think so. And what makes someone happy about the Catholic Church's eagerness to raze and sell off land rather than desanctify and work with parishioners and neighborhoods and possible buyers? Inquiring minds want to know. Former Parishioner, I see it here in Cleveland, too. My sympathies. Brian, answer: because sometimes I'm sure most of us here are idiots and think "great" is defined by cheap, the same as everyone else has and open 24/7, not what makes a place different. I've enjoyed a pint at the George in London, an inn/pub where people did just that 3 centuries ago, but can't count on anything lasting even half a century here.

Submitted by saveourchurches at: February 1, 2010
A terrible accident has happened today 2/1/2010 at this site. A worker died while trying to dismantle the study tower. The tower was so strong special measures were taken to dismantle the towers by hand . Tthe tower wouldn't come down with the usual machinery, which proves the church was structurally sound and only the facade needed to be addressed. My prayers are with the workers family.

Submitted by bub at: January 19, 2010
i like its being knocked down because they can build something great for shenandoah, but for the people who used to go there it must be hard to live without your favorite church. i am hunter from shenandoah

Submitted by Shenandoah native at: January 17, 2010
It broke my heart as I drove into Shenandoah this weekend. I actually pulled my car over as a tear roled down my face. To see St George's today with the 1/2 of the church demolished towards main street exposing the beautiful interior of the church. So sad.

Submitted by former parishioner at: January 13, 2010
I recently saw detailed interior pictures of St. George Church and the frescos ARE NOT falling down as the Diocese of Allentown has claimed. Shame on you Diocese of Allentown for tearing down our beloved church. We the parishioners paid for the paintings, statues, pews, lighting fixtures, etc. When you are getting ready to send out Catholic Charities Appeal cards, you can shove mine were the sun doesn't shine. SHAME ON YOU!!!!!

Submitted by former parishioner at: December 26, 2009
It is a shame and a pity that this beautiful structure that so many have worshipped in is being destroyed. It is even more pitiful that the parishioners were not permitted to enter the building for one last time. Where did all the money go? What has all the memorials been used for? Clergy trips to Mexico, new cars, clothes, sad... I feel sorry for the people who have been fighting so hard to keep the church and make sense of the insanity. My parents put quite a few buck into the restoration and renovations of the building only to have it torn down. Unfortunately, what is already done, cannot be undone. Parishioners,it is a loss comparable to an obituary of a loved one. The Diocese of Allentown is rcih...super rich...why do you think the bishop can own homes at the shore bought them for him...priests in those days joined the priesthood to see the world and get everything on a silver platter. Do you ever see a priest driving an old car...wearing old clothes, not having decent food to eat...hell no....they will get their turn. Hold your heads high that you tried...they are the ones that will have to answer...They're all SHEISTERS!!!!

Submitted by altarboy at: November 17, 2009
It should have been noted in this article that the Diocese of Allentown has refused repeated requests for a parishioner paid for, second estimate. The Diocese of Allentown also refuses to sign the structure over to groups interested in maintaining the church as a shrine or museum. So the decendants of the very people who built the church now stand by and watch this structure being torn down needlessly.

Submitted by Mike at: October 31, 2009
It is a great loss of a beautiful building that many think is not in as bad a shape as the chruch leaders are saying. Read on and find out more here:

Submitted by restorevt at: October 28, 2009
sad and disgusting statement on our cultural priorities

Submitted by Brian at: October 16, 2009
Makes you wonder how come medieval buildings are so plentiful across Europe and yet we can't save 19th century buildings.