Dan Eldridge, in reporting for the New York Times, uses the word “blessed” to describe Pittsburgh’s congregation of refurbished churches.

“Like most American Rust Belt towns settled by European immigrant laborers, Pittsburgh in the early 20th century was a deeply religious place, where ornate Romanesque and Gothic chapels, churches and cathedrals rose in nearly every corner of the city,” writes Eldridge.

As a result of the steel industry’s collapse, many of these churches were abandoned as their attendees flocked more prosperous places. But now, Eldridge says, entrepreneurs are admiring the old, abandoned structures and re-imagining their facades for modern businesses.

Most Pittsburghers will recognize the businesses that made use of their holy buildings: Altar Bar, or Church Brew Works. But the list is so extensive, it’s surprising that more people haven’t questioned the city’s affinity for–or should we say devotion to–churches.

Eldridge mentions the Braddock Community Cafe, a Presbyterian church in Braddock that is now a community center, as well as the music production facility in the South Hills, which was once the Overbrook Presbyterian Church. The list goes on: Charlie Murdoch’s (did we know that was a church?!), the Sphinx Cafè, Angel’s Arms Condominiums, Mr. Small’s, The Priory Hotel and the Union Project. From pottery studios to night clubs, Pittsburgh churches have been transformed beyond recognition.

“For many business owners and developers, it makes economic sense to creatively adapt these old churches, especially in densely populated areas where demolition and reconstruction could prove difficult,” says Eldridge.

Eldridge also points out that this variety makes a great tour of the city–grab a brick oven pizza from Church Brew Works, spin a pot at the Union Project and catch a show at Mr. Small’s. Sounds like a pretty good day to us.

Read the full article here.