St. James Episcopal Church

The early years of the 20th century were a time of expansion in Pittsburg and Wm. J. Carpenter had arrived on the scene as an established architect.  In 1903 the Saint James Episcopal Church, an old established congregation in the Penn Avenue area elected to relocate to the Homewood District .  On April 17, 1903 the prominent architectural firm of Carpenter and Crocker was hired to design the new church.  The cornerstone was laid October 18, 1903 and the church was consecrated November 6, 1904.  The design showed the influence of the Gothic Revival and traditional Norman styles to which Mr. Carpenter had been exposed while studying in England and while associated with E. G. Lind in Baltimore.

 The new church, named St. James Memorial Episcopal church prospered in its new location  and building and soon needed additional facilities.  A rectory was

St. James Interior c2005

 built across the lawn from the church entrance on the right side and the two-story Parish Hall was added at a later date, the design being by a different architect. Through the years every effort has been made by the congregations to maintain the church as it was when originally built, except for maintenance and technical updates. All the church furniture is original as are the light fixtures.  The altar which had originally been against the front wall of the church was moved to its present position several years ago. The stained glass clerestory windows are original, as are the windows at the lower level with the exception of one window that had been broken. It has been reported that Andrew Carnegie contributed to the purchase price of $3000 for the original Moeller pipe organ, which has since been replaced.

 At the time of completion of the church a local neighborhood paper, The East End, Pittsburgh lauded the architects and the church:


The architectural supremacy of the East End has always been one of the proudest features of “the greatest city”, and the source of the greatest pleasure and pride of its residents.  Its splendid private residences and beautiful churches have given the East End a high place among the beauty spots of the country.

Much that is best in this line of work is that which has been executed by the architectural firm of Carpenter and Crocker whose offices are 410 in the Lloyd Building, which was created by that firm last fall.

 Mr. W. J. Carpenter, the senior member of the firm is a native of London, England, where he imbued (?) much of that atmosphere of ecclesiastical architecture that has made that “tight little island” famous from the days of Sir Christopher Wren down to the present time.  He had done considerable work in Baltimore and New York City before taking up his career in Pittsburg.


 The property was purchased by another Pittsburgh congregation in 1956 and became known as the The  Church of the Holy Cross .

Recognizing the historical significance of the edifice they made application to the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation for recognition and the Historic Landmark designation plaque was awarded in 2005-2006, thus marking its 100th Anniversary.

 I am pleased that I was able to contribute information on Wm. J. Carpenter when the application for the Historical Landmark designation was being prepared.   All of this short biography is in my ABOUT WM. J. CARPENTER  Page but I repeat it here for those interested in an abbreviated biography:

William James Carpenter was born in London, England in 1864 and studied art and architecture there.  He and his family came to Baltimore, MD and he is listed as an architect in the Baltimore City Directory in 1880.

He married Agnes Christina Coe in Pittsburgh on Nov. 12, 1900.  The 1900-1901 Pittsburgh City Directory lists a William J. Carpenter, architect, at 234 North Craig Street.  In 1903 the Pittsburgh City Directory under “Architects” lists Carpenter and Crocker at 6104 Penn Avenue.

By 1914 William J. Carpenter, Architect, was listed as living and working at 331 Fourth Avenue, Beaver.  Apparently the partnership was dissolved by this time.

Mr. Carpenter moved to DeLand, Florida and was a prominent architect there during the 1920s.

In the 1930s he established a studio in Daytona Beach where he specialized in watercolors.  He died in 1953 in Palatka, Florida.  Reprinted from Pittsburgh Landmark Plaque Application.

Side View of The Church of The Holy Cross c 2004

Thanks to Mary Ellen Leigh, Diane Ames, and the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation for contributing to this article.


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