For more than 150 years, the area known as "Cambria City" has been home to working-class residents of Johnstown. Originally, immigrant steelworkers and coal miners were guided here upon arriving in Johnstown. They formed families, gathered into ethnic groups and founded their own churches and societies. Cambria City became a richly colorful cultural center.

As recently as 2009, five of the Roman Catholic parishes founded by ethnic groups still thrived here: SS, Casimir and Emerich (Polish and Hungarian), St. Columba (English-speaking), Immaculate Conception (German), St. Rochus (Croatian) and St. Stephens (Slovak). Click on the Tour the Steeples link to see how the interiors Casimir, Columba and Immaculate Conception appeared in 2008.

In July, 2009, the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown consolidated the five parishes into a new Resurrection Parish and closed three church buildings – Casimir, Columba and Immaculate Conception.

A group named "Save Our Steeples" worked to raise money and promote reuse of the buildings. Their grassroots efforts generated funding that supported an effort by the Johnstown Area Heritage Association and Partners for Sacred Places of Philadelphia, Pa, to organize a Cambria City charrette (a visioning workshop) in November of 2010. Out of that charrette came a concept to redevelop Columba into a theater and use it as the venue for an original historical drama telling Johnstown's immigrant story.

Over the next year, a 501(c)(3) corporation called "1901 Church, Inc." was identified and offered by its president, Teresa Stoughton Marafino of Jennerstown, as a corporate entity that could be used for the acquisition of the building. Then Resurrection Parish told community leaders that it couldn't continue to maintain the three church buildings. During the fall of 2011, Resurrection Parish and 1901 Church, Inc., negotiated an agreement for the purchase of all three buildings for a total of $30,000.

1901 Church took possession of the buildings on December 30, 2011, and launched The Steeples Project to raise funding and plan new uses for these architecturally, historically, and culturally significant buildings. To date The Steeples Project has raised more than $1 million and moved reuse plans forward for all three buildings.

The former Immaculate Conception was reopened as "The Grand Halle on Broad Street" in September of 2012. Now the Grand Halle features concerts that showcase its brilliant acoustics, its resonate Adam Stein pipe organ and some of the area's brightest musical talents. Thanks to its Gothic ambiance and Munich-style stained glass, The Grand Halle also has become one of Greater Johnstown's premier special-event rental venues, hosting a busy schedule of wedding ceremonies and receptions, corporate events, fund-raisers and private parties. For more information, go to

In 2015, Stella Property Development and Event Production LLC purchased the former St. Casimir from 1901 Church, Inc. Privately owned, Stella is located in Cambria City and is dedicated not only to the preservation and repurposing of the neighborhood’s architectural treasures, but also to the continuation of the cultural traditions associated with them. The Casimir Cultural Center hosts culturally diverse concerts, small theater productions, symposiums, art and music events, festivals and private events. It also houses a permanent collection of treasured artifacts from the closed parishes of Cambria City and items that reflect the ethnic religious heritage of the region. For more information visit and

The Steeples Project’s vision for the former St. Columba continues to be to adaptively reuse that building as a theater for the dramatic arts. This theater would become a venue for the staging of professionally produced dramas, presenting Johnstown's ethnic heritage, and for local theatre companies. A feasibility study in 2017 defined a $3 million project that would create an effective, well-equipped theater while maintaining the Celtic character and sacred sense of the space. Development work now is underway along with a capital campaign to preserve this important resource and add an exciting new cultural resource to the community.

While much has been accomplished, significant challenges remain. The Steeples Project needs your support!