Friday, July 29, 2005

Remembering The Parishes

Almost a month ago, a number of parishes of the Archdiocese of St. Louis were closed, both in South City and in North County.

But it turns out that a lot more Roman Catholic parishes than that have closed over the years in the City of St. Louis. And not just in the 1990s and early 21st Century, either.

Among them:

Our Lady Help of Christians parish, 1010 Cole St., a Sicilian parish which was at the heart of the old Little Italy district just north of downtown.

Opened 1900; closed 1975 (according to the Archdiocese).

The St. Louis Public Library says 1970 was the church's last known date, and gives information on its previous locations too: "Organized Feb. 1900 at 19th & Morgan in a rented Presbyterian Church, by Father Caesar Spigardi (1900-23?). Moved to 10th and Wash in 1902. 1010 Wash (Cole) (at 10th St) in 1930? Last church built in 1931."

Now located there: the new headquarters of the United Way of Greater St. Louis, which takes up the entire block from 10th to 11th on Cole. The rather non-descript suburban-style office building was built in 1982 as part of the Convention Plaza West redevelopment.

Ironically, I guess, an even older Our Lady Help of Christians parish (est. 1872) still exists in the St. Louis Archdiocese - in the hamlet of Weingarten, on MO Route 32 in central Ste. Genevieve County. Weingarten, MO is perhaps best known for having housed a German POW camp during World War II. It's also near Hawn State Park.

So, it's not exactly Little Italy.

Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish, an Irish church which was located at 917 Sidney St., in Soulard.

Opened 1861; closed 1965.

This church, evidently, had some Archbishop problems too. From the History of St. Louis Neighborhoods: Soulard series by the late Norbury F. Wayman, c. 1977:

"The parish of the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was founded in 1862 by Rev. Bernard O'Reilly. The cornerstone of the church at the northwest corner of Eighth and Sidney Streets was laid in May, 1862. The 40 by 100 foot building was designed by Robert Mitchell and was adjoined by a school and a parsonage. In 1890, the church's pastor sought to move to a new church at Sidney and Salena Streets. After completion in 1891, Archbishop Kenrick changed his mind about abolishing Assumption parish and designated the newer church as St. Agnes. After the dismemberment, Assumption parish still contained about 250 families. The parish has since been merged with that of St. Agatha."

St. Agnes (at Salena and Sidney in Benton Park) closed, too, in 1993. St. Agatha, of course, is the new official home of the Polish community in the Archdiocese. That doesn't necessarily mean it's recognized as such by everyone, however.

Anyway, back to the Assumption parish story:
What's there now: part of the athletic fields for the Boys' Club of St. Louis.

One more parish that's lost to the history books and the bulldozers:

St. Columbkille, a strongly Irish parish located at 8202 Michigan at Davis, in what was once known as "Kelly Patch", because so many families there had the last name Kelly. The neighborhood, perhaps in honor of that largely forgotten heritage, is still called Patch on the official city neighborhood map.

Opened 1872; closed 1952.

Again, quoting Mr. Wayman, in the Carondelet volume of his series:

"St. Columbkille's Church at 8202 Michigan Avenue was organized in 1872 to serve Irish iron workers of the nearby Vulcan Iron Works. The building was dedicated in March, 1873. Its pastor, Father Michael O'Reilly was called a "militant defender of the Church" bnecause of his defense of his parishioners against slurs of character. Before plans for a larger church were consummated, the iron works closed down and the parish population dwindled. The church was razed in 1952, at which time the parish was discontinued."

What's there now: a privately-owned ranch-style duplex, built in 1979.

Most of the rest of the 8200 block of Michigan consists of small houses built around 1955, just a few years after the church closed.

For reference, Carondelet Lions Park is just across Davis St. - it's a small, one-square-block park, not to be confused with the much larger Carondelet Park several blocks northwest; and the old Carondelet Elementary School (opened 1871; closed 1975) is on the same block as the church site, but at 8221 Minnesota.

That building was used by a Christian school, perhaps one formed in response to desegregation, during the 1970s and part of the 1980s, but now seems to be used for storing antiques. It is the lesser-known cousin of Des Peres School, 6303 Michigan Ave., where Susan Blow started the first public school kindergarten, in 1873. Nevertheless, Carondelet School still stands, unlike St. Columbkille's.

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