Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church is a former Catholic church located in the Sedamsville neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. It was in operation from 1889 to 1989. Long a landmark for anyone traveling eastward along River Road and US 50, the Gothic Revival-styled building closed when it merged with another parish.
The beginnings of Our Lady of Perpetual Help date to the first English filial congregation of the Catholic church on Sycamore Street, St. Francis Xavier, that was in charge of the Jesuit Fathers. 3 Considered the “mother” English-speaking parish in Cincinnati, St. Xavier was instrumental in arranging the development of Catholicism in the western and eastern parts of the city.
Because Cincinnati was considered a booming community in the 1800’s, relating its gains to the meatpacking industries and its location along the Ohio River, it was not long before a new church was needed outside of St. Xavier. 3 A large Irish population had developed on the southwestern part of the city, and in 1850, it was proposed to build a church on the northeast corner of 3rd and Mill Streets. The lease was signed on May 1 by Lemuel Page, John Bonte and John T. Chambers to Reverend John B. Purcell for $1,800 with the privilege of purchase at a price of $7,000. 4 That privilege was exercised in May 1853.
Father Cahill, to whom the organization of the new church was entrusted to, built St. Patrick’s cathedral in the same year. 5 It was blessed by Bishop Lamy on November 24.
The first filial church of St. Patrick’s came only a little more than a decade later. The parish of the Atonement on West 3rd Street was begun in 1870 as a chapel for the Sisters of Mercy, but was converted into a parish church with Father Homan as pastor. 5 The second filial church of St. Patrick’s was St. Vincent de Paul’s in Sedamsville. St. Vincent was completed in 1861 under the organization of Father McLeod. 6
Our Lady of Perpetual Help
In 1878, a division occurred within the parish of St. Vincent de Paul, 2 when German-speaking Catholics desired a Catholic school. 6a Organized by Father Otto Jair, O.F.M. on January 27, Our Lady of Perpetual Help was formed in Sedamsville. It was made official on May 12, 1878. 1
An old stone school house near the Ohio River on Sedam Street was purchased, with the upper floor being dedicated to church services while the basement served as a school and teacher residence. 6a Several years later, a new parochial residence was constructed on Dehli Avenue. 1
Frequent flooding required relocation, and property was purchased along Steiner Avenue for a new church. On June 10, 1888, the cornerstone was laid for the new building. The new church, designed in the Gothic Revival style, was dedicated on May 5, 1889. 1 2 Stretching for 145-feet in length, 51-feet in width and soaring high for 170 feet, the church that was perched on the hillside offered a commanding presence that overlooked the business district of Sedamsville.
The church contained four bells in the tower and an organ that was given to the parish by Pope Leo XIII. 2 The basement housed the parochial school, while the edifice contained furnishings that cost about $30,000. 1
In 1890-91, a new parsonage was constructed and the old residence was reused as a house for the Sisters who taught in the parochial school. 1 A new three-story school structure was constructed in 1907.
Owing to dwindling student rosters, the school closed in 1976. 2
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church was closed in 1989 when it merged with the Holy Family parish in East Price Hill due to declining attendance. 2 The building was stripped of any decorative items, and the church bells and organ were installed at Holy Family.
John Klosterman purchased Our Lady of Perpetual Help from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 1995. Klosterman, along with his partner Jim Grawe, owned many properties in the neighborhood. They had hoped for city and private financing to remake Sedamsville from a low-income to an upscale neighborhood.
The Sedamsville Building Committee requested to the city in the fall of 2010 that the deteriorating church be demolished, citing that the property had become a blight and a safety hazard. 8 A few days before the demolition date, Klosterman and the Cincinnati Preservation Association struck a deal that would give the group two years to stabilize the church and market it nationally for resale.
In April 2012, the city funded $200,000 in repairs to the steeple, board up the damaged windows, repair a collapsed balcony and shore up the interior floor. 9