For more than one hundred years, St Norbert’s Roman Catholic Church was part of the fabric of Overbrook, Pittsburgh, PA.
Overbrook was called Fairhaven when the parish was established in 1914. Fairhaven was part of Baldwin until it became Overbrook Borough. The borough was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1930.
For about a year, the new parish’s Masses were said in a parishioner’s home that later became Hillview Tavern. The name St Norbert’s was selected for the parish. The congregation consisted of 150 families. They acquired a local farm. Its barn was turned into the church.
St Norbert’s School opened in the mid 1920s. Nearly 250 students were taught by the Sisters of Divine Providence. The first floor of the school became the church. “Students in classrooms on the school’s first floor had to keep their feet up on a bar under their desks during funerals in the church below so the wooden floors would not squeak,” the Post-Gazette wrote.
The church was part of the community. The St Norbert Ladies Guild held performances. Their singing was accompanied by spoons beaten on pots, pans & washboards. Bingo was organized. Ox roasts were held yearly at the church as their primary fundraiser. Coal was raffled – coal furnaces heated parishioners’ homes.
Following the Great Depression & World War Two, a new church was completed in the late 1950s.
The success of the church & school was undermined by changing demographics in the area – people moved out of the city into the suburbs as the World War Two generation aged & the Baby Boom generation started their own families.
As the school enrollment shrank, the cost of maintaining it grew. In the 1990s, St Norbert School closed. The school was demolished. The property was sold to the Norbert Personal Care Home.
Fewer Masses came to be said at St Norbert’s Church, although an army of volunteers continued to clean the church, landscape it, & operate bake sales & fish fries.
In 2014, St Norbert’s parish celebrated a grand centennial. Two years later, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh merged St Norbert’s, St Albert the Great (Baldwin), St Basil (Carrick) & St Wendelin (Carrick) to form Holy Apostles, which ultimately became Blessed Trinity.
St Norbert’s was located at 2413 Saint Norbert Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15234. Photos of the history of the church & school can be seen at the Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society.