August 16, 2016
The Priory Hotel was the only Pittsburgh lodging mentioned in this story recommending visits to Pittsburgh and other must-see cities around the country.
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In the Path of Progress
In the early 1970’s, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced that the route of the long-planned Interstate 279 feeder highway (from downtown Pittsburgh to the northern suburbs) would wind directly through the location of the St. Mary’s Church and Priory (not to mention the school and Lyceum, which were located across Nash Street and which were eventually demolished).
After exhaustive negotiations between the diocese and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and despite St. Mary’s rich history and historic landmark status, it was agreed that the state would pay $1,294,000 for the church and adjacent building, including the priory.
This left the parish in an uncertain state for nearly a decade. It continued to occupy the priory building and church as a tenant, but the flock dwindled for the doomed church. Toward the end, there were only two priests left to occupy the massive priory and the majority of parishioners were single retirees – widows and widowers.
The coup de grace came eight years after the state took control of the property. On August 31, 1981, Bishop Vincent M. Leonard issued a decree of suppression of St. Mary’s Church. Four weeks later, on Sunday, September 27, 1981, Father Bede Hasso walked into the first full house the church had seen in years and offered St. Mary’s final mass. The following day the parish, with the remainder of its fold being absorbed into Our Lady Queen of Peace parish, closed forever.