St. George’s Church is a closed Roman Catholic church at the corner of the Dixie Highway and Standard Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky. It closed in 1995, just shy of the 100th anniversary of its founding.


History

In 1897, the Diocese established St. George’s Church facing 18th century between Magnolia and Standard Avenue in Marydale (Marydale was incorporated into the city of Louisville in the 1890’s. Ibld, 106-8, 143). 1 1b A 25-foot by 75-foot frame church, rectory, and one-room school were built in 1898 facing 18th Street between Magnolia and Standard Avenue.

By the early 1900’s, the parish boasted over 800 families. The church sought a more significant sanctuary and hired renowned Louisville architect Frederick Erhart to design a new structure. even. George after he visited churches in other cities and rejected the current trend, Gothic Revival. 2 The pastor was also influenced by the Jesuit Churches of southern Germany and Austria.

The new two-story church building, the earliest and smallest of Erhart’s neo-Baroque designs in Louisville, was dedicated in 1810. 1c 2

The old sanctuary was reused for an expansion of the school, which was supplemented with several later 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 and brick veneer facade, and was renovated into a convent.

In the place of the original, a more substantial two-story rectory was constructed. 1d

Growth

Population in Marysville continued to swell, bursting with a younger demographic that dictated the erection of a new school. Fundraising, including picnics, lawn sales, and entertainment, began shortly prior to World War I, and property was acquired west of the church. With the onset of war, all planning ceased until late 1922, when contracts were let to build a three-story school along Standard Avenue at the cost of $78,000.

The basement of the new school housed a cafeteria,, stage and a gymnasium. 1b The first floor included six classrooms, while the second floor contained four classrooms, offices, and a nurse’s station. 1b

A rear, two-story addition to the school was completed in 1935 at the cost of $16,616. A large smokestack was built between the original structure and the rear addition. 1b

In 1937, the Dixie Highway, an automobile touring route first planned in 1914 to connect the Midwest to the South, was established along 18th Street. The new designation brought forth additional traffic, necessitating the widening of the road to four lanes. Additionally, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad expressed the desire to eliminate multiple at-grade crossings in the city and replace them with underpasses. As a result, the church property would be dually affected both by the highway and railroad. In October 1937, the church building was raised, 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 neighbourhood necessitated another expansion project for the church, but World War II delayed work. A gymnasium and classroom facility was constructed in two stages in 1947. The first phase included construction of six classrooms, followed with the development of a second-story gymnasium in 1948. 1b

A new two-story convent was constructed in the southwestern corner of the church complex in 1959. The front entryway was enclosed with brick in the early 1970’s. 1b

It was the final construction project for the St. George parish, as the social and demographic makeup of the Marydale neighbourhood began to rapidly change. During the 1957-1958 school year, St. George’s had a student enrollment of 532 students taught by 13 sisters and two lay teachers. The enrollment spurred discussions of a new convent building project, however, by 1964, 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 Additionally, 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

Decline

In 1968, unrest amongst the Black community led to riots in nearby Parkland, and discord and threat of violence resulted in an ever greater exodus of people from the Marydale neighbourhood. 1f School enrollment declined by over 100 students, and although 50 black families lived within the parish boundaries, only two were members of the congregation. 1g

The convent closed in 1968 to reduce expenses and the remaining sisters that taught lived in another convent nearby. In 1969, the former convent was rented to a health maintenance organisation for a neighbourhood 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.” lbld

The school permanently closed shortly after, followed by 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

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