Category Archives: historic churches

Holy Name Catholic Church, East Central Kansas City

I have no idea why Holy Name Catholic Church is being torn down, except that shortsighted leaders see more value in the cut stone than in the stunning work of Gothic Revival structure they’re destroying.

Nominated for the National Register of Historic Places, it is now being torn down, one stone at a time, until what you see here is all that is left of the church.

You would think this is in some completely bombed out neighborhood, but in reality the neighboring blocks are relatively stable, with beautiful rehabs and new, seemingly expensive houses.

I guess they thought that an historic church was a detriment to their property values? More so than a vacant, weed-choked lot?

As I always say, just because you lack the imagination to see this church restored to its former glory instead of demolished, doesn’t mean you should get in the way of someone, maybe not even born yet, who has the vision and drive to find a new use for the church.

Read about the history behind the church in the 1960’s here.

The images remind me of pictures of post-war Germany after it had been bombed at the end of World War II.

See it from the air here, before most of the church was demolished.

In just a few short months, the entire church will be gone, and its striking presence will be gone as well.

As you can see, the stone is being carefully stacked and hauled off to another location. How stupid and short-sighted…

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Kansas City, Missouri

While the cathedral of Kansas City is much smaller than St. Louis’s own basilica on Lindell, I still found it a beautiful and unique structure.

Firmly embedded in the fanciful eclecticism of the Nineteenth Century, it is an interesting mix of Baroque and even western American architectural elements.

When built, it was the tallest building in Kansas City, and it still sits in a real neighborhood just west of downtown, avoiding the isolation that our own original cathedral in St. Louis suffered.

The gold on the bell tower shines brilliantly in the sun.

Rock Hill Presbyterian, Totally Gone

I drove over to Rock Hill Presbyterian last Thursday, expecting to see some jagged walls sticking out of the ground, slightly more dismantled than I had seen it the Saturday before. Instead, I saw nothing. The church was completely gone, and I gasped when it dawned on me what had happened. According to the Post-Dispatch, they took it down “carefully” in three hours, numbering stones as they went. I seriously doubt that. What a joke.

Fairfax House, bizarrely floating on steel stilts, had been moved to its corner of purgatory on the north end of the site, ridiculously close to the road and completely devoid of context. I feel bad for all of the people who have worked so hard restoring it to its past appearance.

Anyways, it’s been long established that the leadership of Rock Hill are a bunch of revenue addicts, willing to do anything–even sell their grandmother’s wedding ring, or historic church–for their next fix. I predict here now that at least one, possibly two, of the currently operating gas stations in Rock Hill will go out of business in the six months after the UGas opens. It will be interesting, and depressing, to see if the fiefdom even comes out of this with more tax revenue than before they sold their community’s soul.

But what’s truly pathetic is the decision of the Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery to sell such an historic church to UGas, fully aware that it would mean its demise. Sure, it was the smart business decision, but certainly not the smart moral decision. While I’m sure the Presbytery had full legal title to the church, I would argue that they did not hold the spiritual title to it. It belongs to the slaves, immigrants and the generations of members who first built and then attended services for almost 170 years. Was their hard work and devotion so meaningless?

Rarely Seen Views, St. Liborius

Perhaps as enjoyable as viewing the interior of the church was the chance to step into the private, intimate spaces behind the scenes of the church.

For example, the angles created by the exterior of the apse as it butted up against the bridge to the rectory, or the steps that descend down into the basement.

The building’s stout walls will last for centuries, but the near future of the church will determine in what condition it will remain in the coming decades.

Below, the stained glass windows still line the hall of the bridge between the church and rectory, one of the most unique elements of this complex.

The rectory itself is a large building, with fascinating courses of glazed brick interspersed with the typical red brick.

The fuse box, no longer hooked up to electricity, is most likely part of the earliest wiring of the church.

A yellowed sign explains the operation of the system, though it is of no use now.

The parish hall, in the cellar, has been cut up into smaller rooms, but some of the original paint remains.

The grotto out back, facing away from the street, has miraculously avoided serious vandalism. This is the second historic church I have visited in North St. Louis in the last couple of months, and every time, I get a sad sense that I am witnessing the passing of an era. In fact, I get much of the same feeling viewing these churches as when I’m visiting ancient Roman ruins in Italy, even though those are obviously much older. What caused the Roman Catholic church to give up on this church? Was it a lack of will, or just a sad, realistic realization that there was no reason to keep the church open? Was it no different than when the Romans abandoned the Coliseum? Was there just simply no money or manpower left to keep it open any longer? Perhaps the most sad realization for me is that if even the beautiful St. Liborius can be abandoned and forgotten, then anywhere can, including the places I cherish.

The Fine Arts, St. Liborius

The most stunning aspect of the interior of St. Liborius are the massive painted lunettes above the arcades of the nave and transepts.

While most of the paintings were shrouded in darkness, I could pick out a couple of scenes at the beginning and end.

At the presumed beginning was the Nativity of Christ, and on the opposite place on the wall across the nave was the Resurrection, so I am going to guess that the rest of the paintings focus on the life of Christ.

I have no idea what the scene of a young Christ handing a cross to his parents is all about.

The stained glass is likewise beautiful, though some of the best pieces by Tiffany were sold decades ago and replaced with clear glass.

The high altar, described to me as originally being incredibly ornate and constructed of white marble, has been decimated. I don’t know exactly when or why, but the high altar was stripped of most of its marble. What remains gives you a bit of a clue about how it once appeared.

The transept altars didn’t fare much better, as this one attests, completely stripped of its marble veneer.

St. Liborius, A Desolate and Beautiful Interior

One of my favorite churches in North St. Louis, which I’ve looked at before here and here, is St. Liborius, anchoring the bend in North Market Street in the St. Louis Place neighborhood.

This weekend, the owners allowed visitors to come inside and view the interior, and brainstorm for possible uses for the massive, Gothic Revival church.

The church is a version of a German hallkirche, with relatively de-emphaisized transepts. All attention is therefore focused towards the high altar.

The massive compound Gothic columns hold up intricately detailed and well-preserved groin vaulting.

The choir loft is in bad condition, and the organ is largely gone.

The original gold leaf on the vaulting of the apse is well preserved and extremely beautiful.

Some of the original tracery and mosaic tile is preserved in patches around the church such as you can see here.

The complex, foliated designs on the capitals of the columns are also unique, and still possess their original paint.

Surrounding the front door are thick brick walls, supporting the tall spire above.

The owners are looking for help or a possible buyer for the church. If you have a good idea, and some money, you should help out.

Rock Hill Presbyterian Demolition Continues

The demolition of Rock Hill Presbyterian continues, and the windows have now been removed and presumably stored for safe keeping.

The apse of the church has been removed, but I do not know if that was constructed of stone or not, judging from the foundations below where it once was.

The interior of the church is now visible, and the smell of old wood permeates the area.

I thought they said they’re saving the stones, but there are dozens of stones tossed around the site. There is no sign of pallets, where the stone could be stacked safely.

The lintels above the windows have been removed as well, though I don’t know if those are going to be saved either. I’m starting to suspect the rebuilding out in Warren County is going to be a far cry from the original church.