St. John the Evangelist Parish was established in 1854. The first church was a wooden structure, erected in 1858 on the site of the present church, corner of William and Church Streets, Pittston, Pennsylvania.
Dedication: The granite cornerstone was placed on September 17, 1889. The church was dedicated on April 12, 1893 by Bishop William O'Hara, the first bishop of the Diocese of Scranton, who called the church the 'jewel of the diocese.'
Structural Statistics: Built with Trenton stone and trimmed with light Indiana limestone, the building measures 160 feet by 62 feet, completed with artistically superb stained glass windows throughout.
The base walls are made of concrete and measure approximately four feet in thickness while the main walls of the church are about 36 inches thick.
The towering twin spires are topped with gilded crosses and add to the overall beauty of the structure, attracting attention from throughout the Pittston community, both on the east and west sides of the Susquehanna River.
The entire structure is made of stone and wood with the exception of the metal posts holding up the balcony and the main floor. Otherwise there is no steelwork in the church.
The slate roof is supported by wooden trusses. The beams are installed in such a way to support the roof without pillars. An attic walkway was provided so workmen can walk around the entire ceiling area to handle necessary repairs. (This enhanced the installation of air conditioning, enabling the concealment of ductwork.)
Main Altar: Built of marble, originally costing $5,000. The two side altars are also constructed of marble, each costing $2,000. The Sanctuary is also constructed of marble, as is the altar rail.
Nave: The main seating section was designed to seat 1,500 people while the galleries hold 400.
Heating & Lighting: When the church was constructed, it contained 300 lights and was heated with a central coal fired system. Since then heating system has been changed, to oil and now to natural gas. The lights have also been replaced several times.
Renovations: The church has remained very much the same from construction until 1982 when major changes were made in the church proper. At that time a new Altar of Sacrifice was installed for Mass, the center section of the sanctuary was extended ten feet, and a new marble baptismal font and marble lectern were installed.
The church was rewired and electrical fixtures were updated.
Pipe Organ: The current pipe organ is a three-manual Kilgen. It was donated by Monsignor Peter C. Winters, who was pastor from 1921 until his death in 1930. It was restored in 1970 at a cost of $58,000.
Front Doors: The three original oak doors at the main entrance were re-hung with ball bearing hinges.
Cost of Construction: Records indicate original costs to have been either $140,000 or $150,000. Aided by preconstruction fund raising by the parishioners, most either Irish immigrants or their offspring, the parish was debt-free when the church was formally dedicated.
Church Basement: The basement of the church originally contained a full-size chapel which in recent years was divided into two sections. A chapel remains in one section (closest to the front doors of the church) while the other contains a meeting hall and kitchen.
Crypts: Two former pastors are entombed in the lower church. Father John Finnen, who was also the first chancellor of the Diocese of Scranton, served St. John the Evangelist parish from 1861 until 1899. Monsignor Peter C. Winters is also entombed there. He served as pastor from 1921 until 1930.