Churches Fire Midtown

More Coverage of "Rock" Church Fire

Pub Def (with video)

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

KWMU (links to photos)


Almost All Parishes Closed in 2005 Sold

Old parish properties have new owners, uses – Barbara Watkins (St. Louis Review, February 23)

Out of the 20 parishes closed by the archdiocese in 2005, only two remain for sale.

Central West End Churches Metal Theft

Architectural Heritage Threatened By Metal Theft

by Michael R. Allen

This is St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church at the northwest corner of Pendelton and Olive streets in the Central West End, just west of the old Gaslight Square area. On Friday of last week, church members noticed that the original copper guttering was missing. Then, they noticed that the flashing and other copper pieces from the roof were gone, too.

With limited means and no insurance on the church, the congregation brought out the buckets to endure the weekend’s rain. Hopefully, a more permanent repair can be made with the help of generous St. Louisans and the Lutheran synod.

However, no building will be very safe as long as metal recyclers are allowed an exception under city law that requires dealers of reused items to keep on file a photo ID card of each person who redeems items for cash. With metal prices high recently, thieves have been actively stripping buildings both vacant and occupied, with no end in sight. The Board of Aldermen needs to pass a bill requiring each metal recycler to obtain a photo ID from each customer before paying for their load of metal. That would guarantee that police officers investigating thefts can actually have a basis other than hearsay for investigation, and prosecutors can file charges against metal thieves. Honest scrappers who glean alleys and do gut demolition work would be unaffected. Metal dealers might experience a loss in profits, but would be more protected against charges ever being filed against them for accepting stolen property.

Theft of architectural items is as big a threat to the historic fabric of St. Louis as bad urban planning. St. Stephen’s Church is seriously at risk of sustaining major damage until roof repairs can be made, and that may take awhile. Vacant buildings that have their guttering stolen don’t even have half of the chance of surviving that an occupied building does. We cannot afford to lose buildings so that thieves and metal dealers can make a few bucks; the consequences will live on long after they spend the money.

St. Stephen’s originally was St. George’s Episcopal Church, and was built in 1891 from plans by Kivas Tully. Tully, who also designed parts of Christ Church Cathedral downtown, had conceived of this building as a wing of a larger sanctuary, but that plan was never built. The church is a key part of a pending expansion of the national Central West End Historic District drafted by Landmarks Association. This expansion basically restores the proposed original boundaries of the district north to the alley south of Delmar (but including Delmar Baptist Church at Delmar and Pendelton) and east to Pendleton.

Churches Demolition South St. Louis St. Aloysius Gonzaga

St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church Under Demolition

Photograph taken on Tuesday, May 2.
Abandonment Churches Hyde Park North St. Louis

Bethlehem Lutheran Church

Photograph by Michael R. Allen, 2005.

LOCATION: 2153 Salisbury Street; Hyde Park; Saint Louis, Missouri
ARCHITECT: Louis Wessbecher
OWNER: Bethlehem Lutheran Church Congregation

Photograph by Michael R. Allen, 2003.

Photograph by Michael R. Allen, 2003.

Photograph by Michael R. Allen, 2005.

The Bethlehem Lutheran Church congregation now meets in a 1920’s school building next door to this beautiful church. The congregation wants to raze the old church, and has not kept it maintained for many years.

Photograph by Yves Marrocchi, 2005.

Photograph by Michael R. Allen, 2005.

Churches Princeton Heights Salvage South St. Louis

Our Lady of Sorrows Convent

by Michael R. Allen

LOCATION: 5050 Rhodes; Princeton Heights; Saint Louis, Missouri
OWNER: Archdiocese of Saint Louis

Today we woke up to find a light covering of snow on the ground on Swan Avenue in St. Louis — nothing troublesome compared to the 12 inches that bogged us down one week earlier when we were packing up to move out of Chicago.  I thus continued with out plans to attend a public sale of fixtures and furniture at the convent of the Our Lady of Sorrows parish on Kingshighway in Princeton Heights.  I had received an announcement one week earlier in my email and was intrigued to learn that the 1927 convent building — with which I was admittedly not familiar — adjacent to the landmark parish church would be demolished to make way for a new school building, and that the parish was selling as much of the building as possible to raise money for a construction fund.  After all, this announcement came at a time when the Archdiocese of St. Louis is planning to close 37% of the city’s remaining parishes.

How does Our Lady of Sorrows manage to do so well — well enough to build a new school?

As we discovered, the parish is a friendly and dedicated group of Catholics who are committed to their neighborhood, their community and recycling their resources. At the sale, we spoke with many parishioners who said that they wanted to make sure none of the building’s fixtures ended up in the landfill and who spoke of concern at the alarming number of parishes closing this year. Even though they are pursuing demolition of the historic Italian Revival convent for their school expansion project, they are trying to avoid the wastefulness that seems endemic to the archdiocesan plans.

The sale encompassed door frames, doors, cabinets, windows, light fixtures, sink basins and many parts of the convent, which seemed to be in fairly good shape, not to mention a wonderfully complimentary building in the parish complex. Yet there was more: modern furniture, kitchen gadgets, suitcases, typewriters, lamps and curtains. Needless to say that I have now completed the furnishing of a new flat with items that tell a story, all for under $40.

May the parish thrive for years to come. They have placed banners on many light posts around their block proclaiming their forthcoming centennial: “1907 – 2007.” They should make it longer than that, if the archdiocese puts faith in the efforts of parishioners to keep traditions alive. The loss of the convent is unfortunate and one with which I do not agree, but it is small compared to the potential devastation that may come from the current round of parish closings.