Old Saint George Church, a former Roman Catholic church in the Clifton Heights neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio, was constructed in 1873. It closed in 1993 and was nearly demolished in 2005 for a drug store. It suffered a fire in 2008 that destroyed its two steeples.
Built as a Roman Catholic church by the St. George Parish in 1873 for $80,000, Old Saint George was designed in the Romanesque Revival architectural style by Samuel Hannaford and could hold 1,200 worshippers atop one of the highest points in the city. Hannaford was revered as one of Cincinnati’s greatest architects who had designed Music Hall and the City Hall.4 A parish school was added in 1914 and a parsonage and monastery in 1928.4
During the 1970s and 1980s, the neighborhood surrounding the church declined, when property values declined and historical structures demolished for suburban-styled fast-food restaurants and gasoline stations.1 In 1993, with the church barely filling a fourth of the seats, it merged the congregation with Saint Monica’s (now named Saint Monica/Saint George) and the Old Saint George’s site closed its doors.
The church was purchased from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 1994 by Christian Ministries Center, a volunteer team that was led by Larry Bourgeois who turned it into a community and arts center and offices for University of Cincinnati ministry organizations.5 6 7 It also briefly served as a an arts venue and coffee house and was rented out for meetings and social functions, however rental revenue and fund-raising failed to pay the mortgage and as a result, foreclosure proceedings began in late-2004.4
For several years, the future of the church property was quite dim. A collection of neighborhood businesses and buildings across the street, bordered by Vine, McMillan and Calhoun streets, were demolished for a mixed-use project.3 Nearby, old or vacant properties were torn down for student housing and retail stores. In December 2005, Walgreens offered to buy the church for $1.6 million with the intent of demolition, countered with an identical offer from the Clifton Heights Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (CHCURC) with the intent of saving the building, which was accepted.4 5 CHCURC began minimal repairs to the roof, followed by the repainting of the entrance foyer and work to the plumbing and electrical systems with the intent of restoring the church completely.2 7
At about 7 p.m. on February 1, 2008, a fire caused by a light bulb too close to combustible materials 10 began on the western steeple of the Old St. George church which soon leap to the right steeple due to strong easterly winds.9 The two-alarm fire quickly escalated to a three-alarm fire. At 7:44 p.m., the left steeple collapsed followed by the right steeple at 7:53 p.m. Fire crews were ordered to pull back as large embers and debris was littering the streets.9 Due to the all-wood and bronze construction of the towers, the steeples were a total loss.8 Damage did not extend beyond the towers, and most of the damage outside of the steeples was from water. CHCURC is currently in the planning stages for restoration of the steeples, and settled with the insurance company for damages in February 2009.10
- “Cincinnati: CUF: Calhoun Street Project.” Urban Ohio. 29 Sept. 2006 Article.
- Monk, Dan. “McMillan project revamped.” Cincinnati Business Courier 4 Mar. 2005. 29 Sept. 2006.
- “Campus-Area Development Picks Up Steam.” Channel Cincinnati 4 March 2005. 29 Sept. 2006.
- “Historic church saved from demolition.” Cincinnati Enquirer 3 Dec. 2005. 29 Sept. 2006: 3B.
- Howard, Allen. “New era for Old St. George.” Cincinnati Enquirer 31 Dec. 2005. 29 Sept. 200.
- “Fire-damaged 135-year-old church may be repaired.” WTOL-TV (Cincinnati) 3 Feb. 2008. 11 Feb. 2008.
- Howard, Allen. “New epoch begins for Old St. George.” Cincinnati Enquirer 31 Dec. 2005. 11 Feb. 2008: 1B.
- “Fire-damaged 135-year-old church may be repaired.” WXIX-TV (Cincinnati) 4 Feb. 2008. 11 Feb. 2008.
- “3-Alarm Fire At Historic Old St. George Church.” WCPO-TV (Cincinnati) 2 Feb. 2008. 11 Feb. 2008.
- “New Hope to Rebuild Old St. George.” Local 12 (Cincinnati) 4 Feb. 2009. 10 Feb. 2009.