When anyone talks about the ethnic character of Pittsburgh neighborhoods, inevitably Polish Hill becomes part of the discussion. It’s the only neighborhood that so proudly incorporates the national origin of many of its residents in its name. And while some older folks in the neighborhood will tell you that this used to be called “Herron Hill,” its steep streets, small tidy houses, and magnificent Catholic church are now all recognized as distinctive parts of this unique neighborhood with the unusual name. One of the Catholic priests who worked here, the late Father John Jendzura, was apparently instrumental in getting the city to recognize this neighborhood officially as “Polish Hill.”
Because the huge, domed church, Immaculate Heart of Mary, so dominates the landscape and does so much to preserve the ethnic character of the area, we decided Polish Hill was a perfect place to point out that houses of worship can have an important impact on neighborhoods. We talked with Father Raymond Kulwicki because he was born and raised here (he says back then local families spoke German and Polish as much as English) and because he still celebrates one Mass here every Sunday in Polish. We also talked with Father Joseph Swierczynski, the current pastor, who pointed out some of the local shops that still sell imported Polish meats, foods and other items. Especially at Christmas and Easter time, the church attracts families from all over the area who have roots in this neighborhood as well as in eastern Europe.
RICK'S FAVORITE LINKS
There’s a website for the Polish Hill Civic Association . . .
and the city’s page on the neighborhood . . .
and more about ethnic neighborhoods in Pittsburgh.
Some memories of Christmas here . . .
and some history of the church.
There's a photo of the neighborhood on this virtual tour of the city.
We didn’t even mention the bars, the music and the nightlife here in what one of these reviewers calls “the armpit of Pittsburgh.”
But you may want to get up early for Mass.