Editor’s note: This story is part of the Eat, Play, Live special section.
It doesn’t sound very pretty.
“The Old Mud Church.” It sounds rickety, plain and abandoned.
But in Philipsburg, this mud is a treasure.
Its real name is the Union Church. It is almost 200 years old, and despite the humble name, the building has a wealth of history.
Built by the same people who would worship there, the church is no large and grand cathedral.
It is small and sweet, a Gothic Revival church made of wood and covered in stucco. It is exactly the kind of simple meetinghouse meant to serve a flock of mostly British and German immigrants. The seats are narrow and few, but the graceful architecture inside is a whole different kind of breathtaking.
The grounds around the building hold just as much history. The church sits along Presqueisle Street in the middle of a residential part of town. It is surrounded by a rustic stone fence, just high enough to remind people that the yard is not just a lawn, but the final resting place of many over the years. The oldest grave is a year older than the church itself, dating to 1819.
There are simple stone markers with barely legible names. There are newer ones with clean, crisp markings. And there are more grandiose monuments.
The church is owned by Philipsburg borough and maintained as a historic site by the Philipsburg Historical Foundation. It is periodically opened for special viewings, but it’s worth a trip even if the church doors aren’t open, as an opportunity to stroll the grounds and visit the past.