November 4, 2018

house of ill repute


STPMMC, dedicated on May 22, 1899, was a magnificent
Execution of the Richardsonian Romanesque style. STPMMC neatly
packed edifice, an asymmetrical medley of this style, featured a
façade of varied stone and brick. As the city’s oldest congregation,
St. Paul’s was built in the final months of an industrious century,
a church fitting for Hazleton. The structure overlooked the square
that housed Pardee’s mansion, which continued to command
the downtown.

At the height of the Depression, the church underwent major
Renovations, and the congregation dropped “Episcopal” with the
Unification of American Methodists in 1939. By the early 1970s,
the Methodists had merged with the Evangelical United Brethren
denomination, making STPMMC.

STMMP remained an active church through the 20th century.
In the late 1990s, major renovations to the church’s exterior and
Interior reaffirmed the congregation’s commitment to its historic
Presence in the city. But STPMMC could not control the unforeseen
Circumstances that resulted in a precipitous drop in its membership rolls.

Hazleton’s population decline and suburban flight directly impacted
the congregation’s size. As the children of lifelong congregants moved
Elsewhere, the church lost its viability. A corresponding drop in financial
resources followed, andSTPMMC had to reevaluate its future.

The church closed in 2004, nearly 170 years after its formation.
The landmark has since stood vacant, changing ownership, plagued
by instability caused by abandonment.

 STPMMC unfortunate outcome is not unique to post-industrial
Communities. In cities like Hazleton, the domes, spires and columns
of religious structures define the skyline and attest to the
diversity attracted by industry. Although a small city, Hazleton is
Endowed with diverse church architecture, signifying the many
European cultures that built sacred tributes to there
Ancient denominations.

Churches frequently close because they cannot afford the upkeep
of historic structures. Their leaders postpone necessary
maintenance and repairs, struggling to finance the congregation’s
future in a space with a leaking roof, crumbling masonry, or an
outdated mechanical system. STMMP deteriorating condition
is particularly painful, for the congregation maintained the building
until the very end. Just one decade ago, masons and roofers
busily kept pace with the church’s required upkeep. But years
of deterioration, exacerbated by break-ins and no utilities, has
turned STMMP into a blighted property.

In 2012, Hazleton Police Chief walk through the church and
called STMMP a “house of ill repute,” noting the ceiling’s peeling
plaster, beer cans scattered on the floor, and satanic pentagrams
scrawled on the walls. At the time, the building was a den for
vagrants, a nuisance property littered with alcohol containers and
drug paraphernalia.



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