November 25, 2009

Seat of Power?

According to the Web site of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), its headquarters is located at 1001 Merchant Street, Ambridge, PA 15003. Ambridge, which might seem an unlikely place for a church claiming 100,000 members spread across the U.S. and Canada and headed by an archbishop, is the former home of American Bridge Company. It is a less-than-affluent community a few miles down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh. The Merchant Street address is about a two-block walk from the campus of Trinity School for Ministry, the Evangelical seminary that used to have “Episcopal” in its name. Ambridge is within the bounds of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, if, in fact, that entity can be said to have bounds.

Yesterday, I received e-mail from a friend who happened to be in the Ambridge area the other day and, for whatever reason, decided to see what the ACNA headquarters looked like. He sent me some photos of 1001 Merchant Street along with a note, which included the following:
What I found was surprising. There is no indication that ACNA is really there. There is no signage, and it would appear that there is only one tenant in what used to be the police/fire station, and that’s a biblical literacy group. The side door had ten lock mailboxes, so it seems as though the building can house that many tenants. It’s a pretty ratty looking place. As you can see from the photos, the third story is boarded up.
Here is a view of the building from the corner of Merchant Street and 10th Street. The main entrance of the building, which faces Merchant, has the narrower façade. Tenth street runs along the longer side of the building.

ACNA headquarters?The front entrance has nothing to suggest that the offices of a nascent Anglican province can be found inside.

Main entranceNeither does the 10th Street façade.

10th Street side of buildingWhat is obvious is that the building is for sale. The asking price for the 13,500 square foot building is $470,000.

Signs currently on buildingAs indicated in the e-mail, the only conspicuous tenant of the building is WatchWORD Productions, which markets a narrated version of the Bible (The WatchWORD Bible) on DVDs. The sign above the For Sale sign (which may be hard to read in the above photograph) proclaims:

we plan to stay in our present
location; this sale will help us
in our work to spread
"His Word"

Make of that what you will.

Another tenant, not identified by my correspondent, might be Zeta Design & Development, a software firm. But maybe not.

Anyway, the building has an interesting history. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it was built by American Bridge Company in 1904 and housed various municipal agencies until 1996. The building was later purchased and renovated by one Thomas E. Throckmorton, who was eventually sent to prison for trucking Mexican marijuana from Arizona to Pennsylvania and storing it in the Ambridge building. He sold the building to GDT CG1, LLC—apparently erroneously reported as “GDT CGI” in the Post-Gazette story—which supposedly was to turn the building over to WatchWORD Productions. It is unclear who owns the building now, but WatchWORD clearly expects to be staying put after any sale.

GDT CG1, LLC, seems to invest in distressed properties and donate them eventually to conservative Christian organizations. (See, for example, the lead story in the February 25, 2003, issue of The Liberty Champion.) How can GDT CG1 afford to do this? Where is the money coming from? There is probably an interesting story here, but investigating it is above my pay grade.

Anyway, where is ACNA? I don’t know. I was surprised when Ambridge was first mentioned as the location of its headquarters; actually working in Ambridge would have been quite a comedown for Bob Duncan, who had become used to the downtown-Pittsburgh Oliver Building, a Daniel Burnham skyscraper completed in 1910. The headquarters of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh is in the process of moving across the Allegheny River to Allegheny Center, hardly a slum, but a place where the rents are cheaper than in Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle. My friend suggested that ACNA may be part of the move. Perhaps the ACNA headquarters is wherever Archbishop Duncan is, which as been in the diocesan office. Perhaps there simply is no there there.

I see that the Web site of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh is actually using that name now, rather than “The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican),” as I note in my November 1 post “Questions for the Anglican Diocese.”

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