Greystone United Presbyterian Church

Greystone United Presbyterian Church, Coraopolis, Pa.


The organization of the First United Presbyterian Congregation of the Borough of Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, was begun on the evening of September 13, 1886, in the small wooden Methodist Episcopal Church at the corner of what is now Fifth and Main. A committee appointed by Monongahela Presbytery and consisting of the Rev. John D. Turner and Elders John Ewing and David Dines met with a few United Presbyterians and some friends to organize the congregation. After a sermon by Rev. Turner there were received into membership 19 persons. These elected Messrs. John M. Watt and Samuel Marshall to the office of Ruling Elder, and a Board of six Trustees was also elected. An adjournment until September 21st followed for completion of the organization, and the transaction of other essential business.

The commission, accompanied by Rev. James M. Wallace, and the members previously received into the organization, convened on the 21st, and following a sermon by Rev. Wallace, proceeded with the business of the evening. The two Elders elect were duly ordained and installed. Three additional members were received into the church, making the number of the charter members 22. Thereupon, the congregation extended a call to Rev. James A. Lawrence as its first pastor. Congregational authority first being given, the Trustees made application to the Board of Home Missions for aid in supporting the pastor, and to the Board of Church Extension for financial assistance toward the erection of a house of worship. These Boards subsequently favored us with $200.00 pastoral aid and $1,000.00 for the new church building.

At the outstart we were united with the Mt. Gilead United Presbyterian congregation--located about four miles south--the two churches together forming one pastoral charge. Rev. Lawrence began his labors in the two congregaticms on the first Sabbath of October, 1886.

Principal consideration was given to building the Lord's House. A lot was purchased at 848 Fifth avenue, on the property now occupied by Dr. J. C. Hawkins. Actual construction work began in August, 1887, and a frame structure erected at a cost of $4,000. The building was dedicated in June, 1888. About February 20, 1895, this church was completely destroyed by fire.

In erecting a second church a change of location was deemed advisable, and a site extending from State avenue to Fifth avenue, at the foot of School street, was chosen. A brick structure having a seating capacity of 300 was built for the approximate cost of $10,000. This building was dedicated in December, 1895, only about ten months after the burning of the first church.

The second church was outgrown in 1914, when the number of members reached four hundred, necessitating enlarged capacity to accommodate the steadily growing congregation. The ultimate decision resulted in the erection of the present edifice and the complete abandonment of the old one for purposes of worship, which was torn down in 1934-35.

The church property was extended by the purchase of the Conkle and Burns properties from the existing church site to the westerly side of Broadway between State and Fifth Avenues. Construction work was commenced in the spring of 1915 and the present structure was dedicated on June 11, 1916, when the Rev. C. K. McGeorge was pastor. It was designed by Mr. Thomas Hanna, Pittsburgh architect. Constructed at a cost of about $90,000, it was described as "one of the outstanding architectural achievements of the community." At the end of its 100-year history, the replacement appraisal cost was $2,621,000.

A three-manual organ was dedicated on June 8, 1929. A "Cathedral Lantern" lighting system was installed in 1941.

On Thursday morning, May 10, 1945, the organ, chancel, ceiling, light fixtures, and pulpit furniture were burned; the pews were damaged by falling tile and debris; and the Bible School Chapel, social rooms, and kitchen were damaged by water. The fire, of undetermined origin, started in the chancel and spread rapidly to the roof. The damage to the building and furnishings amounted to over $77,000. That evening the Board of Trustees and the Session met at the manse and, after prayer, began to plan for the future. Within twenty-four hours after the fire, priorities for rebuilding had been secured from the War Production Board. The insurance companies reimbursed the congregation in the amount of $51,030.29; of this amount $7,000 was used to payoff the mortgage, leaving $44,030.29 for rebuilding. Worship services were maintained during the summer and fall in the Zion Lutheran Parish House and The First Presbyterian Church. Over $32,150 was received in cash and pledges during a special Rebuilding Fund Campaign conducted on Sabbath, September 16. Special gifts in henor or in memory of individuals are recorded in "The Book of Golden Memories" in the church office. On October 7 services were resumed in the Bible School Chapel, and on December 9, in the unfinished Sanctuary.

The Congregation, in 1952, purchased the Condle property at 1000 Ridge Avenue for our parsonage at a cost of $27,000. This price included carpeting, venetian blinds, beautiful landscaping, and a two-car garage.

In 1955 the Christian education facilities were improved at a cost of $22,000. This included a beautiful Chapel, designed by Architect Glenn Bickerstaff of our congregation, directly behind the Chancel where the balcony used to be, seating 72; redecorating the class rooms; and a "Bride's Room" to the left of the Chapel.

In the fall of 1960 a beautiful stained oak Narthex was installed in the rear of the Sanctuary at a cost of $2,200. This amount was a bequest from the estate of Mrs. A. W. Bickerstaff.

Because of the merger of the United Presbyterian Church of North America and the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America in the summer of 1958, it was deemed necessary to change the names of the two congregations in Coraopolis to eliminate confusion. In consequence of this action the new name for our congregation, Greystone United Presbyterian Church, was certified in Harrisburg on June 29, 1961.

In 1961, an extensive renovating and remodeling of the social rooms, parlor, and kitchen was been undertaken. New flooring, new lighting system, and a completely new kitchen were installed.

(Note: This history is a combination of the write-ups in the 50th (1936), 75th (1961), and 100th (1986) Anniversary programs.)

Bruce Harper
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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
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