Former St. Hedwig’s Roman Catholic Church

Update: This was in fact a Polish national parish, famous for its fall festival on Labor Day. Also, thanks to a reader’s observation, I confirmed with Sanborn maps that the school did in fact function as the church as well, which was on the second floor.

The former St. Hedwig’s is set back in a residential area of southern Dutchtown, and is not normally passed by travelers on nearby Virginia Avenue. It was founded in 1904, and there was clearly an earlier church here that was demolished in the mid-1950s so the present building could be built in 1957. It closed in 2005 in a wave of closures in the Archdiocese. St. Hedwig is the patron saint of Silesia, which was a part of the Kingdom of Prussia since the War of the Austrian Succession until after World War II, when it went to Poland. Frederick the Great built St. Hedwig’s Cathedral in his Forum Fridericianum in central Berlin to celebrate his victory and as a nod to his Roman Catholic subjects. St. Hedwig, a Bavarian, became a saint by her works in Poland, thus becoming a symbol of German-Polish reconciliation.

It’s a severe structure, and is much different than the curving lines of nearby Resurrection or the Priory; I think this was a design meant for a working class neighborhood in an out-of-the-way area of the city.

The interior, as Built St. Louis shows, has some nice surprises in the stained glass and sculpture for the Stations of the Cross. I do not know how much of the latter is still installed.

There was clearly an earlier church here as the nearby school is in a much older Romanesque Revival style in red brick. I was surprised to learn from its cornerstone that it was built in 1904. I would have guessed it was built in the 1880s.

The building is being renovated into a new school.

The name of the church’s namesake is in both Polish and English/German. I wonder if this church was originally founded to serve German or Polish American Roman Catholics.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. ME says:

    Chris, The writing above the front door of the school bldg lists ‘church and school’. I’m curious if the original church was located in the 2nd floor of the school bldg since those windows appear to be slightly fancier than the 1st floor. Then, the current church bldg might have been built adjacent to the school as the parish grew. -This is also the case with St. Raphael’s parish in STL Hills. It’s current gymnasium attached to the school bldg used to serve as the church prior to the construction of the current church bldg across the street.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Ohhh, yes!!! You’re right! There were many churches like that in the Archdiocese and in other denominations. Take a look at the old St. Engelbert’s (scroll down for the first church/school building):

      1. ME says:

        It’s interesting how some of these parishes were at one time large enough to warrant the construction of larger buildings, and now no longer exist at all. But I’m glad to see that some of these old churches have new congregations keeping their neighborhoods alive.

        1. Chris Naffziger says:

          Indeed. I have often found it ironic, as well, how St. Luke’s Hospital on Delmar expanded less than a decade before moving to Chesterfield. Times changed very quickly in mid-Twentieth Century St. Louis.

    2. TMM says:

      Yes, the original church was on the second floor. My father grew up in the parish and still talks about being a pallbearer in his grandfather’s funeral and having to carry the casket down the stairs.

      1. Chris Naffziger says:

        Thank you! Was there more of a steeple at one point over the entrance to the old church/school?

  2. Joseph P Genna says:

    Yes, per TMM’s comment. I went to school here for the 1956 – 57 school year with the School Sisters of Notre Dame. The new church was being completed or was completed. I remembered the church on the second floor and being in school on the first floor. Nearby was the rectory (priest-residence). White flight basically caused the demise of the Polish parish. – Patrick Genna, Portland, OR

  3. Barry Fleming says:

    Lived in the neighborhood.I watched
    St.Hedgwig close in 2004.
    Catholics bleed the parish,and sell
    its bones for scrap. Just like they
    rape little boys of there sexuality.
    Leaving them empty & broken.

    Lost souls of the Catholic Religion.

  4. Jim Zielinski says:

    “The name of the churchs namesake is in both Polish and English/German. I wonder if this church was originally founded to serve German or Polish American Roman Catholics…”

    I can say that after researching the Sikorski family in St. Louis, they switched from St. Stanislaus Kostka Polish Catholic Church to here before 1911. There are LOADS of Poles in the registers. Mass for an aunt there in 1966 and a niece there in 1980. So, seventy years for some of THAT Polish family.

  5. St.Hedwigs is the best memory of my early childhood in 1958 as my oldest brother was a graduate of St. Mary’s and we lived on Michigan by Mt.Pleasant park I was a ride along with my family to the fair and rides on the church grounds. It was all so surreal.. Great memories..!

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