The Story of the Spires – Stroudsburg

One of the key ingredients for the stability component of “home” is safety. In the aftermath of 9/11, there was a concern about the safety of living in cities and living in New York in particular. The Pennsylvania boroughs of Stroudsburg and East Stroudsburg were among the places considered safe by those leaving New York City. Knowing this going in and comparing it to the lessons learned from Bethlehem, I assumed that the religious buildings would reflect a sense of stability.

Of the two boroughs, Stroudsburg has a more centralized concentration of religious buildings that was easy for me to explore on foot within the limitations of my post-injury recovery phase. The results of this survey confirmed my hypothesis. Of the seven buildings I found, only one was converted to a secular use. Another one appeared to be having a renovation of it’s primary entrance but was still looked actively used as a church. (Facebook confirmed that it is still active with a video of the Polish language mass from a few days before the date I looked it up.) A third building was a storefront that is a First Church of Christ, Scientist.

Comparing Stroudsburg with other Pennsylvania towns where I’ve explored the status of religious buildings, it fits the pattern well. Stroudsburg’s peak population was in 1950, the same as Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg. Below is an updated chart of the population loss for these cities and a broad impression of the state of their religious buildings.

CityPopulation Loss Since Peak (Peak Year)Status of Religious Buildings
Bethlehem1% (1960)Primarily active sacred uses
Erie26% (1960)Primarily active sacred uses
Homestead85% (1920)Significant numbers closed or converted to secular uses
Pittsburgh55% (1950)Significant numbers closed or converted to secular uses
Stroudsburg14% (1950)Primarily active sacred uses
Wilkinsburg49% (1950)Significant numbers closed or converted to secular uses

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