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Preservationists Upset As St. Nicholas Church Dismantling Begins

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The dismantling of St. Nicholas Church along Route 28 has begun, but preservationists are not pleased at the way the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is going about it.

"If you've ever lost your church, you'd understand," said Susan Petrick, of the Preserve Croatian Heritage Foundation.

And maybe, just maybe, some don't understand, but seeing the stained-glass windows being removed from St. Nicholas Croatian North Side Church, a preliminary to the demolition of the now vacant structure, was a painful site.

"I was disheartened to see it, and I thought it was unfortunate because this church has been standing for 110 years," said Petrick. "So, of course, you hate to see anything this historical get picked apart."

The Pittsburgh Diocese says it has every right to remove, preserve and restore the windows in preparation for the final demolition of the actual church building.

"This process has been going on for nearly 20 years," said Fr. Ron Lengwin, of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese. "And it reached a point where we were telling the Historic Review Commission that this is a bad decision to designate it so we can't do anything with the building. The windows have been taken out in order to protect them because we look upon them as sacred items. They've been carefully crated by a professional company and stored, hopefully to be used again in the future."

The Diocese says it received a certificate of economic hardship that allows the groundwork for the demolition to move forward in spite of the building's historic designation.

So, stained glass removal first and asbestos removal next, but those who are fighting to save the building say the history is still worth fighting for.

"When you believe in something as strongly as we do, and you love it as much as we do, and it a part of you, it's like losing a member of your family," Petrick says.

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