St. George’s Roman Catholic Church is located at the corner of the Dixie Highway and Standard Avenue in Marydale, Kentucky, a working-class neighborhood that began to develop post-Civil War .1 Marydale was later incorporated into the city of Louisville in the 1890’s.Ibld, 106-8, 143 Established in 1897, the church closed just shy of its 100th anniversary.
In 1897, the Diocese established St. George’s Church and school. A 25-foot by 75-foot frame church and a rectory were constructed in the following year facing 18th Street between Magnolia and Standard Avenue. In 1899, a one-room, 20-foot by 30-foot school opened with two Ursuline Sisters from the Convent on Shelby and Chestnut Street teaching 45 pupils.1b
By the early 1900s, the parish featured over 800 families and the frame church was becoming woefully inadequate. Due to a rapidly increasing population, the church sought a bigger sanctuary, and hired renowned Louisville architect Frederick Erhart to design a Romanesque Revival church. Dedicated in 1910, the new facility originally faced 18th Street. It was the earliest and smallest of Erhart’s neo-Baroque designs in Louisville.2 Erhart’s later two Baroque-influenced churches, St. Elizabeth’s and St. Theresa, are larger in scale. The former is more Renaissance and English in character, while the latter exhibits Spanish influence.
The design of the church was influenced by the Jesuit Churches of southern Germany and Austria. The Catholic Baroque style was chosen by the pastor of St. George after he visited churches in other cities and rejected the current trend, Gothic Revival.2
The new church was a two-story building with a sandstone-colored brick facade, divided into three partions. The western most partion contained recessed entry with classical stone environs that continued upward to an arched window and a tower, capped with a colonnaded cupola. The eastern most partion contained a recessed entry with classical stone environs that continued upward to an arched window sans tower. The center partion is surmounted by a gable face, supported by paired pilasters with ionic capitals with garlands. Between the pilasters are two windows of stained glass, augmented with recessed double-doors complete with stained glass.1c
The old church was reused for an expansion of the school, which was later augmented with several additions.
The first Ursuline Sisters that taught at the school used a streetcar to commute from St. Anthony’s Convent to St. George’s. As the staff at the school grew, so did the need for a convent on the premises of the church. In 1915, the original clapboarded rectory was relocated from its location facing 18th Street to Standard Avenue, and the building was given a new foundation, brick veneer and was modernized into a convent.
In the place of the original, a larger two-story rectory was constructed.1d The two-story rectory was attached to the church by a corridor at the rear of the church, and contained a central porch containing paired columns and a pedimented roof.1c
Population in the Marysville locale continued to swell, bursting with a younger population that dictated the construction of a new school. Prior to World War I, planning for a modern elementary school were begun. Land was purchased west of the church and fundraising began in ernest. Picnics, lawn sales, collections and enterainment were held to raise monies. With the onset of World War I, however, all planning ceased until late 1922 and early 1923, when contracts were let to build a three-story school along Standard Avenue at a cost of $78,000. The new building contained a brick masonry exterior with a flat roof surrounded by a raised, stone coped parapet.
The new school replaced a haphazard collection of additions that was originally constructed over 20 years prior.
The interior of the new school featured a basement and two stories of classrooms. The basement housed a cafeteria with an arched front entry, pressed tin ceiling and glass block windows. It also featured a raised stage area, a plaster proscenium arch decorated with acanthus leaves, and a large kitchen. The rear portion of the basement housed the original gymnasium.1b The first floor contained six classrooms, whereas the second floor contained four classrooms, a principal’s office and a nurse’s station.1b
In 1935, a rear, two-story addition was completed at a cost of $16,616. A one-story, concrete block shed finished with stucco was attached to the northwest corner of the addition, and a similar, but smaller shed, was constructed along the eastern wall. A large smokestack was constructed between the original structure and the rear addition.1b
In 1937, the Dixie Highway, a U.S. automobile route first planned in 1914 to connect the Midwest to the South, was established along 18th Street. The new designation brought forth additional truck, necessitating the widening of the roadway to four-lanes. In addition, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad expressed desire to eliminate multiple at-grade crossings and replace them with underpasses. As a result, the church property would be dually affected. In an unusual occurrence, the church was raised in October 1937, pivoted to face south and moved to a location along Standard Avenue. It would not be reunited with a foundation until early 1938.
Continued growth in the neighborhood necessitated another expansion project for the church, however, World War II delayed work until the conflict was resolved. In 1947, a gymnasium and classroom facility was constructed in two stages. The first phase included construction of six classrooms, which was followed with the construction of a second-story gymnasium in the following year. 1b
In 1959, a two-story convent was constructed in the southwestern corner of the complex, featuring a brick veneer facade and a gable roof. The front entryway was enclosed with brick in the early 1970s, and a concrete addition on the northern wall formed a new entry that faced a concrete driveway.1b
It was the final construction project for the St. George parish, as the social and demographic makeup of the Marydale neighborhood would rapidly change in the coming decade. During the 1957-1958 school year, St. George’s had a student enrollment of 532 students taught by thirteen sisters and two lay teachers. The enrollment spurred discussions of a new convent building project, however, just five years later, those discussions had turned considerably more negative. The convent was facing a “teacher crisis” due to fewer young women choosing Sisterhood.Mother Anges Marle 1963 Adding to that, the inner city population of Louisville was declining, and “white flight” was driving wealthier citizens to the newer subdivisions on the fringe of the city.1e
In 1968, unrest amongst the Black community led to riots in Parkland, and discord and threat of violence resulted in an ever greater exodus of whites from the Marydale neighborhood.1f By then, school enrollment declined over 100, and although 50 black families lived within the parish boundaries, only two were members of the congregation.1g
The convent was closed in 1968 in an effort to reduce expenses, and the remaining sisters that taught lived at a convent nearby. One year later, the convent was rented to a health maintenance organization for a neighborhood clinic.
In 1982, St. George’s Roman Catholic Church and Rectory was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.1h The church was cited as “a rare example of the neo-Baroque style in Louisville,” and was the earliest and smallest of three churches with Baroque features designed by Frederick Erhart.lbld
The school closed soon after, leading with the closure of the church on November 8, 1995. Thomas C. Kelley, Archbishop of Louisville, decreed the suppression and conjoining of the St. George’s and St. Ann’s parishes, with the new parish to be based at St. George’s.1i
A request in 1995 sought to expand the boundary to include the school, gymnasium, convent and garage.1j The complex, as cited, was “a good example of a local institution, responsive to the educational and social needs of the members of this urban Louisville parish for a period of fifty years from 1897 to 1947.”[stag_toggle style=”normal” title=”Further Reading” state=”closed”]