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St. Agatha’s Roman Catholic Church, Revisited

St. Agatha’s Roman Catholic Church is one of the more handsome religious buildings in the inner neighborhoods of St. Louis. As can be seen in this historic photograph below, it has changed little in appearance since the 1890s.

St. Agatha Catholic Church, ca. 1890, Photograph by Emil Boehl, Missouri History Museum, N11406

As seen in Compton and Dry’s Pictorial St. Louis, published in 1876, there was already a portion of the campus built by then. Interestingly, No. 1 was labeled as “St. Agatha’s Parish School;” there was no church building proper. I suspect the congregation was worshiping in the school hall while plans for the church to be built in the open lot in the foreground were commencing.

The cornerstone would not be laid until April 12, 1885. As we can see below with the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from the early Twentieth Century, there were multiple buildings in the complex. The old “parochial school” seen in Compton and Dry was destroyed no later than the construction of the Ozark Expressway, or as we call it today, I-55.

But the beautiful French and German inspired Gothic Revival church still stands, and is now the official Archdiocesan-sanctioned Polish National Church since the suppression of St. Stanislaus Kostka last decade.

In some ways, I actually find buildings of red brick with stone or terracotta accents to be more interesting that ones built entirely of stone ashlar. The way the red brick makes the gray stone accents pop is a very nice effect.

I looked at St. Agatha’s back in November of 2014 when the sun was setting, so you can see more of the rear portions of the church back then.

Another thing I enjoy about this church is the subtle use of mass-produced terracotta rosettes and other details as a banded course that then jumps up to under the window lintel.

And if you look closely, you see the glazed bricks functioning as trim.

The rectory is also a real stunner, but it’s fascinating that if we look back at the Sanborn map we learn the convenient bridge was not originally part of the construction, but added later.

The “new” parish school and hall is an excellent example of how a later style, a restrained expression of the Beaux-Arts, can function in harmony with a earlier historicist style, the Gothic Revival.

We discover by carefully looking at the Sanborn again that the classrooms are on the first floor and the large parish hall is on the second floor. It is closed right now, and fish fries are held annually in the basement of the church building.

More great terracotta on the sign above the front door.

No detail was ignored, right down to the fence posts that surround the grounds.

The convent still stands around back, which now houses nuns from the former St. Elizabeth’s in Tower Grove East. Almost all major parishes once had a religious order associated with them to staff the school attached to the church.

2 Comments

  1. There are still nuns living in the convent building. They run a food pantry and are members of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood, the order that ran St. Elizabeth’s Academy.

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