Former Nativity of Our Lord Roman Catholic Church

What is now the Celestial Temple of Peace at 5513 Oriole Avenue at the corner of Harney was originally Nativity of Our Lord Roman Catholic Church in Walnut Park. It was opened in 1904, and closed in 1982, its congregation processing to St. Adalbert’s at 5720 Woodlawn, which itself would later close and merge with St. Philip Neri in 1993 to create Simon of Cyrene, all formerly in Walnut Park. I find the church interesting in that it is Gothic Revival, but it clearly received a Modernist renovation in the 1950s or 60s, its large Gothic pointed window in the front replaced with a rectangular window made of three crosses. It is actually quite ingenious how it incorporates Christ’s cross with the two thieves’.

It is an interesting church in that it is English Gothic in some ways, particularly its squat proportions, but is German Gothic in other ways with the Hallkirche design of the nave, for example. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps show that it was in a fairly rural area when first built at the time of the World’s Fair.

Similar to the old St. Matthew’s Evangelisch Church in Gravois Park, the parsonage is “hidden” under the same roof at the back of the sanctuary.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Margie says:

    Do you know if a Polish community went to Navity? thank you.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      This church was not, but St. Adalbert’s, which I’ve featured before, was a Polish church that took over a portion of the territory of Nativity of Our Lord when the latter closed.

    2. Denise says:

      In the ’50s, when my family moved into the parish, there were few immigrants, but a representative population of the offspring of European peoples who had emigrated to St. Louis in previous decades. My Polish friends’ first generation parents moved to North City and County from the near North Side.

  2. Tom Vivian says:

    My grandparents, Louis and Josephine Oldani, moved to Walnut Park in 1931 to establish a grocery store at the corner of Emma and Park Ave. “Oldani Market”. They had three children born from 1929 to 1933. The oldest was my mother, Louise Oldani, and this was their church. My mom went to grade school at Nativity, graduating in 1943, and was married here in 1956. My grandma continued to be a parishoner here until the church was closed in 1982.

    As the previous commenter stated, this parish was NOT an ethnic-specific parish, and masses were said only in English. My grandmother Josephine had grown up on the Hill after immigrating from Italy in 1910, my grandfather Louis learned the grocery and butcher trade from locals on the Hill, but when he decided to open his own meat market/deli & general food store, there were already so many on the Hill so he opened one in Walnut Park. My grandparents were very involved in the church and the community, Walnut Park was a wonderful place to live up until about 1970. I took long walks by myself in that neighborhood at the age of 5.

    I live in California but drove through it last week on a visit to St. Louis — it still looks reasonably nice, far fewer vacant lots than most of north St. Louis and streets seemed peaceful and quiet. The old store is still there but has been shuttered for many years now.

    1. cnaffziger says:

      Thank you for the memories!

  3. k says:

    Chris, you may want to delete all this personal information…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.