Fairhaven United Methodist Church
Saw Mill Run Boulevard at Fairhaven United Methodist Church circ. 1930
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Fairhaven Church History
Submitted by Rich Cummings
At the eastern boundary of Mt. Lebanon Township, fronting Castle Shannon Road, there is a tract of land presently known as Arlington Park. In 1874 a number of Methodist Protestant ministers and laymen met in Pittsburgh for the purpose of discussing the possibility of purchasing property suitable for a religious meeting ground. Through negotiations by Milton Hays, President of the Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon Railroad, ten acres of the George Smith farm were purchased for $5,000. This land became known as the Castle Shannon Meeting Ground. It was later known as the Arlington Camp Meeting Grounds. A pavilion was erected at the meeting site; the land encircling the pavilion was divided into lots and sold to interested individuals. The new owners erected tents in which to live during the summer and, later, permanent cottages were built, several of which are still used as homes in 2010.
In the valley below the pavilion, a board hall, lunch counter, and stables were built to accommodate persons travelling a long distance to the camp site. The property was encircled by a huge white-washed fence made of wooden planks. Divine inspiration was received at these meetings; one of those people so inspired was Robert Perry. Perry was converted at one of these meetings in 1881 and his conversion was a call to action.
Robert Perry was a forty-four year old Welsh coal miner who lived on Briggs Street in Fairhaven. He was a neighbor of William and Hannah Hibbs, also founding members of Fairhaven Church. Perry decided that his own community of Fairhaven needed religious services so he first organized a Sunday School with the assistance of Mr. and Mrs. Hibbs. The Sunday School met in an old school building at the bottom of Maytide Street where Degenhardt Real Estate offices are today.
Perry soon realized that he would need help with this new venture and he was able to interest two prominent Castle Shannon men in the project: Thomas Scott and William Troth. Scott was made Sunday School Superintendent. William Troth, the first Class Leader; Thomas Scott, Elizabeth Troth, and Orlando Horning were the first Stewards; Troth and Horning were the first Trustees.
The Sunday School met each Sunday afternoon with the aid of Hannah Hibbs, the Jamison family, and the Bennett brothers: William, Edwin, and Nelson. Nelson Bennett also led a Friday evening Bible class and prayer meeting for adults. Bennett owned a green house located on Brownsville Road. Every Sunday, he walked from his greenhouse on Brownsville Road to Fairhaven Church to preach Sunday's sermon. He soon became known as Preacher Bennett. Things went on like this for about two years with all efforts being concentrated on helping the Sunday School to become successful.
Troth and Scott were originally from the Methodist Protestant Church of Castle Shannon and by 1883 they succeeded in interesting the Methodist Conference in Fairhaven’s Sunday School activities. That year the conference appointed a minister to the newly created Fairhaven Mission. The first pastor of the mission was the Reverend Samuel Ferry Crowthers, who was also minister of the Knoxville Methodist Protestant Church. On August 31, 1884 under the leadership of Crowthers, the mission in the village of Fairhaven was formally organized as the Fairhaven Methodist Protestant Church. The church had ten members (two of whom were listed as honorary).
The ten members were: William Troth, Hannah Hibbs, Alfred Chettle, Lucy Eisaman, George Eisaman, Thomas Scott, Mary McCleary, Lewis Eisaman, Minerva Eisaman, and Margaret Browdy. The honorary members were probably William Troth and Thomas Scott in recognition of their instrumental efforts in establishing the Fairhaven Mission. Mrs. Hibbs was given the honor of being the first member on the docket. The first person to be baptized at this new church was Sarah Edna McCleary on September 21, 1884. Crowthers continued to service Knoxville and Fairhaven until 1886 when Reverend George Morris was appointed as Fairhaven’s next pastor.
During this first year, the congregation continued to meet in the old school house where Robert Perry had first started the Sunday School. However, in 1890 the Baldwin School Board ruled that no pubic meeting of any kind could be held in school buildings, perhaps due in part to the church's hard-line regarding temperance, at a time when the village of Fairhaven was known as Hell’s Hole due to its many drinking establishments. When the congregation was told to abandon the school building, church founder Robert Perry had to carry the church’s organ on his back from Maytide Street, up Fairhaven hill to his Briggs Street home. What a walk of dedication that certainly was!
The congregation had to find a new place to worship. The ever resourceful Hannah Hibbs went to Robert Thompson, who lived near the arch at the base of Fairhaven hill, and requested his assistance. Thompson agreed to help by donating land on what is now Glenbury Street. The men of the congregation started to build a church. The carpentry for this new building was chiefly done by Edward Provost and John Dilla.
According to a historical account written in 1929, Provost and Dilla were assisted by several young ladies from the church congregation who helped to hammer nails into the church’s walls. This building was completed and occupied in 1890. This was an indication of how eager these early settlers were for the word of God and a place to worship their Savior. This building was used for seventeen years.
During this entire time, Fairhaven continued to be a station of the Knoxville Church. In 1891 the Methodist Conference felt that Fairhaven was strong enough to be put on the circuit of two other mission stations (Idlewood and Mansfield) and the three would share one pastor, Reverend William West. The conference minutes of that year list the Fairhaven Sunday School’s enrollment as ninety souls. However, the shared mission with Idlewood and Mansfield did not work well, perhaps due to the substantial distance between Fairhaven and the other two stations, which certainly made West’s travel difficult. Whatever his reason, Reverend West left the church the same year. The pulpit was then filled by Reverend George Deakin, the pastor from the Castle Shannon Methodist Protestant Church. Deakin finished out West’s appointment and continued to serve the two churches until 1892.
In 1893 the conference put Fairhaven back on the same circuit as the Knoxville Methodist Protestant Church and Reverend Thomas Colhouer was appointed as the pastor of the two churches. Colhouer served until 1898 when the Conference switched Fairhaven back to the same circuit as the Castle Shannon Methodist Protestant Church. Both churches, once again, shared the same pastor, Reverend Brayman William Anthony.
The following year, another attempt was made to have Fairhaven become independent. At this time the church had thirty-seven members and Reverend Clarence Benninger was appointed as pastor. During Benninger’s tenure, the church began to keep formal financial records which still exist today.
Despite Brother Benninger’s efforts, it was still too soon for Fairhaven to walk by itself and Bennigner gave up. Fairhaven, for the third time, was returned to the Knoxville circuit and came under the leadership of Reverend Frank Foster. In a Treasurer’s Report dated May 4, 1901, the following persons were listed as subscribers whose contributions helped to pay for the minister’s salary:
J. O. Horning .75 William G. Bennett .50 Mrs. J. F. Horning .25 Mrs. C. R. Greimer .25 D. J. Greimer .25 Ladies Aid 5.00 Mrs. J. T. Hancock .25 Mrs. Hannah Hibbs .15 Mrs. Bell Fulton .10 John Twigger .15 Ralph Johnson .25 Mrs. William Johnson .25 Mrs. J. Brawdy .10 John Fulton .25 Arthur Hibbs .10 William Schaakey .25 Lance Linsley .25 Clara Johnson .05 Mrs. James (Alice) Cummings .10
"Treasurer’s Note September 1, 1901 Received $11.75 September 1, 1901 Pd Rev Foster $11.70 This amount paid to him will be reported to the Quarter and Annual Conference. The 5 cents will be paid to him at a later time."
Also, a letter from this era has survived over 108 years and is in the possession of Fairhaven member Mabel Speicher. The letter adds a personal touch to this account of Fairhaven’s history. It was written by Mabel’s grandmother, Jane Twigger. It reads:
December 25, 1902
An Interesting Sunday School Event
The Fairhaven Sunday School held its regular treat Christmas Eve. An interesting part of the program was the distribution of presents for regular attendance, twenty-three of the scholars and two of the teachers attended every Sunday in the past year. These were: Ralph, Raymond, Rolland, and Gilbert Snyder; Lloyd and Raymond Provost; David and Earl Weyman; Harry and George Lintner; Amy, Charlie, Willie, Preston, and Evert Spratt; Arthur and Mary Lewis; Viola and Margaret Rump; Edna Young; Lena Yates; Lillian Hancock; and Elsa Reibling. The teachers were May Lintner and Nettie Hancock. The Sunday School is justly proud of this record. The Ladies Aid Society took advantage of this occasion to present their pastor, Mr. Sanders, with a beautiful silk umbrella; Mrs. Twigger, Superintendent, received a cut glass dish from the pastor and teachers; Arthur Hibbs, Organist, a purse from the same and Minnie Hancock, a Bible from her class of young ladies.
Mrs. John Twigger
Reverend Foster’s relationship with Fairhaven lasted until 1902 when, finally, a successful attempt was made to make the church independent. One of the most influential pastors in the church’s history was then appointed, Reverend Charles Sumner Sanders. The Methodist Conference minutes for that year list Fairhaven Church having fifty members and one hundred twenty-eight individuals enrolled in Fairhaven’s Sunday School.
Under Reverend Sanders’ stewardship, the congregation soon outgrew the Glenbury Street building that Provost, Dilla, and the young ladies of the congregation built. The Horning family donated land for a new church on Saw Mill Run. The church that was built on the Horning property is the building that we occupy today. The new church was completed in 1907 and was dedicated on December 8 the same year. The two foot high bronze bell in the church belfry rang each day at 9:45 and 11. There is no record of where the stained glass windows in the church were produced and who designed them, but the windows and the church bell were bought by the Horning family.
All of the windows have been dedicated to important people ororganizations in the church's history. They are: J. O. Horning and family, Orlando Horning, Cordelia Fulton, James Evans (Choir Director for Fairhaven Church for fifty years), the Ladies Aid Society, and, lastly, founder Hannah Hibbs who was so influential in acquiring the initial property from the Horning Family. Three years after the church was completed, an addition was built on the back of the church for a small kitchen in which cooking could be done in a huge fireplace.
The old church at 42 Glenbury Street was converted into a private residence and was occupied by the Curran family in 1940. It has since been torn down. Several Fairhaven residents speak of an “old tabernacle” that existed near Glenbury Street, perhaps the old Fairhaven building is that to which they refer. It was also during Sanders’ tenure as pastor that baptisms, marriages, membership, and death records were kept and preserved. Ironically, the old school building where Fairhaven began meeting on Maytide Street was destroyed in a fire the same year as our present church was completed.
In the summer of 1912, the Presbyterian Church opened its doors in Fairhaven, four doors down the street from Fairhaven Church. The Presbyterian Church occupied the same building as the German Club does today. It served as an offense and constant source of irritation to Reverend Brown of Fairhaven. In a clearly provocative action, Reverend Brown of Fairhaven issued a press release which was published in the Hill Top Record on October 11, 1912. The headline of the article was:
Fairhaven Protestant Churches May Merge
The article said, “At a congregation meeting of the members of the Fairhaven Methodist Protestant Church, held Sunday morning after services, the following resolutions were adopted: ‘Whereas, the members of the Fairhaven Methodist Protestant Church feeling that our town is not sufficiently large to support two Protestant denomination, and also that our denominations are similar in temperament and policy, and above all, because of our Commmon Master, be it resolved that our church extends a hearty invitation to those who are connected with the First Presbyterian Church movement to come with us, that we may lay aside all differences and any ill feelings which may have arisen and that we labor together for the building up of the Kingdom of God in our Community. We need you and you need us. Finally, a copy of these resolutions be presented to the members of the First Presbyterian Church.’”
Reverend Brown from Fairhaven was basically saying that Fairhaven was too small of a community to have two churches of similar faiths, so he invited them to be absorbed by Fairhaven. The Presbyterians were probably quite offended at the notion. The fact that the newspaper headline said that the churches MAY merge was probably very embarrassing to the Presbyterian leadership. It is not known if the Presbyterians publically responded to Fairhaven’s invitation, but a good guess would be probably not.
In 1919, Fairhaven purchased one of Orlando Horning’s houses near the church property and used it as a parsonage for three years. The parsonage was sold in 1922 to Saint Norbert’s Church and Fairhaven built another parsonage next door to the church. In the summer of 1919 the antagonism between the Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Church in Fairhaven increased.
At the Annual Methodist Conference in September 1919, a resolution was drawn up which said in part, “… Whereas the Methodist Protestant Church has been in Fairhaven for about thirty years, and the Presbyterians about seven years and, Whereas the Methodist Protestant congregation of Fairhaven has officially protested against the continuance of the work of the Presbyterians in that community, therefore be it resolved that we the Pittsburgh Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church in our Annual Session at Uniontown, Pennsylvania September 2-7, 1919 do hereby protest to the Pittsburgh Council of Churches and especially to its committee on comity, against the coming in and continuance of the Presbyterian Church, in its work in Fairhaven, PA.”
It appears that this resolution had little effect although the Presbyterian Church did close its doors several years later.
Sometime during the year 1924, for unknown reasons, but probably due to church denomination mergers, the name of Fairhaven Methodist Protestant Church changed to Saint John’s Methodist Protestant Church. This name continued to be used until 1931 when the name reverted to the Fairhaven Methodist Protestant Church. In 1939 the name of the church changed yet again when three Methodist bodies (the Methodist Protestant, Methodist Episcopal and Methodist Episcopal South) merged. The church’s new name was the Fairhaven Methodist Episcopal Church.
On a personal note, on April 17-19, 1929, the Mary A. Bennett Circle produced a play called THE THREE PEGS. The play was, presumably, performed at Fairhaven Church and also, presumably, was an attempt to raise cash for the church. Surviving records are not clear. The play starred Fairhaven members and friends: Lucille Collins, Mary Wiley, Ethel Sellers, Rose Myers, Sarah Batson, Margaret Booher, Amy Kirsch (future 60 year member of Fairhaven), Margaret Brown, and Estelle Williams. If only video cameras had been invented then!
Apparently THE TREE PEGS was successful so in 1931, the XL Class of Saint John’s Methodist Episcopal Church, assisted by several members of the Sunday School presented a pageant entitled “Memories” in honor of Mother’s Day. Those taking part were: Alice Fulton, Albert Maenz, Doris Wideman, Elaine Bier, Hal Evans, Maxine Mary Wiley, Marguerite Bier, Cordelia Fulton, Antoinette Wilson, Marguerite Evans, Elizabeth Riebling, Mildred Connor, Virginia Bush, Elizabeth Cooley, Jane Cooley, and Royce Wideman. The program was announced by Miss Margaret Hanselman; James Evans rendered a vocal selection, and piano accompaniments were played Miss Evelyn Jane Wiley. The pageant was “ably” coached by Mrs. Joseph Amedick and Mrs. Faye Wideman.
In 1939 a combination of circumstances placed the church in dire financial straits. The combination of circumstances included at least one rainstorm every year that caused Saw Mill Run Creek to overflow its banks and flood the basement of both the church and the parsonage; repairing this damage was not possible due to the fact that the Great Depression had caused a huge decrease in financial contributions. Proper building maintenance was not affordable.
A Pittsburgh building inspector arrived one day to survey the church building and immediately condemned the structure. Many things were deemed to be unacceptable. The antiquated heating system was inadequate for the size of the building and the building inspector also found that the walls of the church were not strong enough to maintain the weight of the roof (hence the poles that we see above our heads in the sanctuary today). The inspector also noted in his report that the foundation of the church had a decided “list to port” due to a sinking foundation. Conditions were so bad in the building that the sanctuary could not be used. Worship services were temporarily held on the building’s first floor. Another serious consequence of the Great Depression was a large unpaid property tax balance owed to the City of Pittsburgh on the parsonage property. The future for Fairhaven appeared to be dim.
Due to this enormous financial hardship, the congregation could no longer afford a full-time pastor. The Methodist Conference appointed, another influential pastor in this great time of need, Reverend David Wynne, a native of neighboring Knoxville. Under Wynne’s leadership, the congregation was energized. A $10,000 remodeling and redecorating program began. The foundation of the building was rebuilt and the kitchen addition from 1910 was enlarged. The result was an expanded kitchen, rest rooms, and a new boiler room. The church was redecorated and remodeled. The building committee: Lewis Smith, Joseph Wilson and Carl Fletcher, were praised for their practical and economical use of the loan.
Lay Leader, Claude Haines, took the bull by the horns and hired an idle construction company to do all the foundation work and building strengthening at a cost of just $600. The work was completed in 1940. It was probably during this renovation when the circular windows on the church’s belfry and the circular windows above the main church windows were covered over with wooden siding which is aluminum today. The church continued to grow along with the nearby community and membership reached an all time high of three hundred-fifty. A permanent building fund was established for the first time.
Another time of hardship for Fairhaven soon began, this time it was not financial, it was about human resources. The United States went to war with Germany officially in January 1942. Additionally, this country went to war Japan and Germany's allies. The United States drafted thousands of men to fight in World War II. An undated Sunday Bulletin from early 1944 listed the names of the forty-nine men and women from Fairhaven Church who AT THAT TIME were in the Armed Forces.
The men and women were: Clyde Armstrong, Bert Baker, Ralph Barton, Charles Baumiller, Herbert Baumiller, Irwin Baumiller, Kenneth Baumiller, Walter Baumiller, Leverta Bush, Walter Caldwell, Arthur Cummings, William Drake, Walter Fassbinder, Frank Fielder, Harry Fielder, Charles Forst, Leonard Fors, Howard Friday, Lance Fulton, Robert Fulton, Richard Hicks, William Hicks, Herbert Horne, William Hunter, Chester Jackson, Robert Jackson, Allison Kaltreider, Charles Kaltreider, Robert Kirsch, Robert Leppla, Mont McConnell, William McLaughlin, William Nabors, John Pries, Harry Ranft, Lawrence Rohm, Charles Rump, Harry Scott, John Scott, Alfred Seebacher, John Seebacher, Jack Smith, John Spence, Guy Taylor, Arthur Waugaman, William Wedemeyer, Joseph Wilson, Russell Wilson, and Robert Young. This bulletin listed the deaths of two Fairhaven members: David Chapman and James Riggs who both died during the war as of early 1944. Later that year, in November 1944, Irwin Baumiller, would die in the Hurtgen Forest during the Battle of the Bulge. The number of church members serving in the armed services during World War II comprised almost 16% of the church’s entire membership, an enormous amount of human and financial resources.
In 1946, the $10,000 renovation loan was paid off and the Reverend John Ford led the church’s congregation in a Service of Thanksgiving called “The Burning of the Mortgage” on February 24, 1946. On the front of that Bulletin, it can be documented for the first time that Fairhaven Methodist Church is referred to a the “Country Church in the City.” The church began to hold picnics at the stone shelter in South Park every August. During the tenure of Reverend John Lofgren, the congregation gave thought to expanding its facilities due to over-crowding at the Sunday school. The Board of Trustees considered purchasing land for building an entirely new church, but this plan was quickly abandoned.
In 1957, Fairhaven Church faced another crisis. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) proposed a multi-million dollar highway project at the intersection of Routes 51 and 88. Fairhaven Church was right in the middle of what would be a six-lane interstate highway with an interchange. The Board of Trustees was told that the church would have to be relocated because it was in the middle of the proposed highway expansion. Reverend Lofgren and the Board of Trustees began to look for an alternate space for the church to inhabit. Lofgren believed that the property of the Hibbard family in Baldwin Township was the congregation’s only salvation. The property was located high above the present church and situated at the end of Brookline’s Eben Street. The Methodist Conference also demanded that the Hibbard property be the same distance from the Brookline Methodist Protestant Church as Fairhaven was. Fortunately, PennDOT abandoned the road renovation project and the notion of moving the church became unnecessary.
In 1958, during the tenure of Reverend A. Elwood Fleming, more structural issues demanded that the top of the church belfry be repaired. The bronze church bell was removed and was placed on the church’s front lawn. In 1970, the bell was stolen from the lawn and has never been recovered. Nevertheless, the church was a hub of activity. Fairhaven’s church groups included: the Intermediate Youth Fellowship with Robert Lewis as President, Senior Youth Fellowship with Mary Patterson as President. Gwen Eltringham led the Girl Scout Troup, Huey Eggers was the Boy Scout Master, and Ted Hixson was the Cub Scout Master. The Junior Choir was led by Esther Ryan. Irma Friday was Sunday School Superintendent. The Methodist Men’s Group was led by Thomas Giles, the Choir Director was Jim Evans, and Lorraine Longhenry was, and continues to be, the organist.
The Women’s Society was so large that there were five ongoing Women’s Circles at the church. In the fiscal year 1958-1959, the theme scripture for the Women’s Society was “Christ for the World We Sing.” The Women’s Society met as a whole once a month as did each Circle. Individual circles had eight to ten members including officers. The Florence Ford Circle met the first Wednesday of the month at 8pm. The officers were: Jean Hennessey, Alice Maenz, Maryalice Seibel and Dolores Kramer. The Ethel Harpst Circle met the second Wednesday of the month at 1pm; its officers were Alice Rohm, Alice Burnell, and Margaret Waesch. The Susanna Wesley Circle met the second Monday of every month at 1pm. Its officers were: Gladys Cornelius, Doris Kaecher, Kay Schweitzer and Esther Ryan. The Thoburn Circle met the second Tuesday of every month at 8pm; officers were Mabel McLaughlin, Esther Proi, Marguerite Evans and Fleeta Weme. The Wesleyan Service Guild for working mothers met the first Friday of every month. The top four officers were: Jean Cummings, Mariam Dieter, Helen Wambolt and Alys Stenger. Don Hassinger was the Lay Leader and Elmer Hein was Chairman of the Board of Trustees. The church’s custodians were Mr. and Mrs. McLaughlin.
Fairhaven’s calendar of activities included a bowling league that was organized every fall and winter and a Strawberry Festival every June. The festival was held on the land between the church and the parsonage next door. There were many different games held under individual canopies (as I recall) and, of course, plenty of strawberry shortcake and ice cream.
By 1963, once again, the church was, once again, overcrowded. Under the leadership of Reverend Frank Shaffer, it was decided that the parsonage, which was next door to the church, be converted into new Sunday School rooms and another parsonage bought. The new parsonage and classrooms were dedicated on September 29, 1963 and the Sunday School building was named Sanders' House, in honor of Reverend Charles Sumner Sanders under whose leadership the present church was built in 1907. A new parsonage was acquired up the hill from the church at 104 Bellanca Avenue. In April 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church merged and Fairhaven’s name was changed again, this time to the Fairhaven United Methodist Church.
Following Reverend Shaffer’s departure, the Methodist Conference appointed former missionary Reverend Elizabeth Dalby as pastor. This was milestone for Fairhaven as this was the first time that a woman would serve as pastor in Fairhaven’s almost ninety years of existence. When Dalby retired in 1970, Reverend Kenneth Tulloch was appointed and served the congregation until 1973. During his tenure, the stained glass windows were given protective covering due to their age and the air leakage which led to drafty worship services in the winter.
In 1970, the church faced another financial crisis due to declining membership which consequently led to inadequate financial support. The conference established a “yoked” ministry with the Mount Washington United Methodist Church which was experiencing similar problems. Reverend Kenneth Rippin was appointed to serve both congregations. Both churches kept their separate identities and they both shared the expense of the ministers’ salary and the parsonage.
In June 1976 Reverend James Shaver was appointed to serve both churches in the same capacity. Shaver served four years. It was during his tenure that the church began a highly successful strategy of outreach to neighboring communities. The church was opened as a meeting place for groups like the Overbrook Community Council and the Overbrook Senior Citizens’ Group. It was also during Shaver’s tenure that the Sunday School rooms were renovated and new pews and a new organ purchased, funded by personal donations. The dedication of these new additions was held in May 1980.
In June 1980, another influential pastor arrived at the church; the second woman and the longest tenured pastor in the church’s history, Reverend Mary Burton. On May 24, 1981, Fairhaven held a Gala Event in recognition of its 100th anniversary.
In 1988, in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the church building’s construction, a fundraising campaign was begun to erect a new steeple. The fundraising was achieved through personal giving and the top of the belfry was replaced after thirty years. Also, an outdoor sign was erected to announce to Saw Mill Run drivers as they sped past the church recognizing Fairhaven as the “Country Church in the City.”
A "Wipe out the deficit campaign" was successfully led by dedicated Fairhaven Member Kathy Evans in 1990. In 1991, once again, declining membership and, consequently, declining financial contributions, forced the Methodist Conference to take drastic action. The “yoked” ministry of Mount Washington and Fairhaven Churches was no longer feasible and the Conference proposed the merging of the Mount Washington United Methodist Church into Fairhaven. The congregations of both churches held a vote and the merger was approved in 1992 and became effective on January 1, 1994.
In March 1993, the second greatest crisis in the church’s long history began. In November 1992, the house next door, which formerly belonged to Doctor Heath, was purchased by Leopardi Auto Sales. In February 1993, Heath’s building was quickly torn down and a new auto showroom began to be built. The new building encroached seven feet onto a pre-existing eighty-six year old easement that belonged to the church. Pittsburgh City Councilman Jack Wagner’s help was elicited. A stop work order was issued and construction halted. When the owner of the car dealership approached Reverend Burton, he rather brazenly said to her, “How long do you people intend to remain in business?” Burton’s response was polite but emphatic, “Forever!” After many conference calls with lawyers, Jack Wagner and Zoning Board hearings, an agreement was reached between Leopardi, Fairhaven Church and the Underwood Street neighbors. Another threat to the church’s existence was thwarted.
Reverend Burton’s second most significant legacy, after the resolution of the threat posed by Leopardi Auto Sales, was the funding and completion of the long discused and planned for, but never achieved, addition for the church. Its use was not just about additional space, it was to be utilized as an outreach tool to the community; a larger space for community organizations to meet, a space for families to come together in the joy of a wedding reception or the sadness of a funeral meal. The building was erected on the land that had been occupied by Sanders' House which was torn down in the late 1970’s. A worship service was held to mark the groundbreaking for the addition on March 19, 2000. The new building was christened Burton Hall and dedicated on September 17, 2000.
June 1, 2001 marked the end of the Burton Era Fairhaven Church and Reverend Burton’s retirement began. Since then the church has been served by Reverend David Sherwood Coul and our present pastor Reverend Joseph Yurko AKA Pastor Joe who arrived in 2005. In 2008, the Methodist Conference suggested, and Fairhaven's Board of Trustees approved, a different kind of “yoked ministry.” The new proposal recommended that five Methodist Churches in the area share three pastors, and a educational advisor thus decreasing the expense of the minister’s lodgings, pensions, and health insurance. The plan was implemented and now Fairhaven shares Pastor Joe and Pastor Sue (Reverend Susan Hutchins) with the Carnegie United Methodist Church, Hilltop United Methodist Church, Spencer United Methodist Church, and our old friend from the turn of the century, the Castle Shannon United Methodist Church. The Reverend Doctor Erwin Kerr serves in the capaciity of Advisor. Dave Brazelton serves in the position of managing education and programming.
While part of the early history of Fairhaven Church has been retold in this narrative, a majority of the Church’s history has been lost. All of our earlier brothers and sisters have passed on. Possibly there are some old church records tucked away in attics, these items tend to be thrown away and we will always be left with unanswered questions; many of the early founders’ names have been lost to history, but their work, energy, and devotion to God has not been lost, it survives to this day, in our church community, the community at large, and the church building around us.
Many churches are built to show glory to God as demonstrated by ornate cavernous spaces; a show of wealth laid before His feet as an offering. Fairhaven United Methodist Church is not that. It is, in fact, the complete opposite. It is a plain and simple church, built by plain and simple people. They built and designed the Church with humility and piousness; they were not glorifying God with precious gems and minerals; but glorifying him by their labors and by the richness of their faith and devotion. Their deeds served as an offering to God. The church’s simplicity demonstrates that devotion to God is paramount, not the richness of earthly possessions. An unknown author in 1936 described Fairhaven this way, “The simplicity of its architecture is one of the most important characteristics of the church … the interior beauty of the church creates the sense of deep holiness and devotion ... No one every enters this holy building without a sense of a higher being always present.”
As the American population becomes increasingly secular in the 21st century, Fairhaven Church will continue to face may challenges as will the people of the church. The church is not just a building, it is the people who worship there. Fairhaven church has served as a respite, shelter, and oasis from the challenges of everyday life for 130 years. Its continued existence is a testament to the resiliency and tenacity that comes with trust and devotion to God and its members.
This history has been written over 130 years by:
Cordelia Fulton 1886-1978 Anna V. Andre 1890-1970 Amy Spratt Kirsch 1893-1979 Doris Kaecher 1911-2004 Arthur Cummings 1924-2009 Richard Cummings 1929-2008 Carol Anthony Rich Cummings
Information has been gathered from the following sources:
Hill Top Record, October 11, 1912 Hill Top Record, May 15, 1931 Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, November 9, 1940 Hilltop Record, October 11, 1940 South Hills Record, November 20, 1957 South Hills Record, May 19, 1958 South Hills Record, August 26, 1959 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 11, 1993 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 27, 2000
and correspondence and archival material from the Fairhaven United Methodist Church