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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Saved from the Wrecking Ball
Demolition of the St. Mary’s Church and Priory was scheduled to begin in 1982. Until then, the buildings sat hulking and empty. By coincidence another Catholic church, St. Boniface, was also in the way of the planned path of Interstate 279. St. Boniface, located on East Street, perhaps a mile North of The Priory. An active group of St. Boniface congregants and neighborhood activists, through a variety of techniques including lawsuits and protests, eventually succeeded in convincing Penn DOT to reroute the highway and avoid the destruction of St. Boniface (and by happy circumstance, St. Mary’s Church and Priory).
Edward Graf was a business executive and his wife Mary Ann a homemaker when they acquired the church and priory from Penn DOT by auction in 1984. Historic preservationists, the Graf’s knew that they wanted to preserve the properties but did not know what new use was appropriate for them. Eventually, they settled on a hotel for the former monastery, and The Priory opened its doors in November 1986 after more than a year of renovations.
It was not until after the Grafs acquired the properties that Ed Graf learned that his family history was tied up with that of the church. His great grandfather had been married there in 1877, and his father, as well as many of his aunts and uncles, had been baptized and attended school there.
In 2009, the Graf family undertook their most ambitious project yet, the construction of a completely new wing to the existing hotel. After nearly two years of planning and construction, on December 31, 2010, the Priory Hotel opened its new wing, which expanded the property’s capacity by 17 guest rooms to give it a total of 42 (not including the three off-site long term stay properties) – an expansion of more than 70%!