St. Mark Church

St. Mark Church

St. Mark Church is a former Roman Catholic church in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was dedicated to the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. During its first 50 years of operation, St. Mark’s had 24 priestly vocations, which included one bishop, two religious brothers, and 36 religious sisters.






History

In 1904, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood expressed interest in establishing a parish in Evanston, a new middle-class suburb of Cincinnati where there were over 100 Catholic families, many of Polish and German descent. 1 2 Permission was granted to establish the St. Mark parish in 1905 and the first services were held at the residence of Mary Klinckhamer. 9 On land that Mary donated, a cornerstone for the combination church and school was laid on April 29, 1906, and the new wood-framed structure was dedicated on October 28. 7 A convent was added in 1909 for the Sisters of the Precious Blood who operated the school. 9

By 1911, both the school and church were at capacity, and architect Henry J. Schlacks was hired to design a larger church building with a capacity for 850 persons. 8 Schlacks was the founder of the Architecture School at Notre Dame University and the architect of Xavier University’s original campus buildings and other notable Cincinnati landmarks. 7  Joseph G. Steinkamp & Brothers served as the associate architectural firm. 8

It was requested that the new structure be patterned after St. Marie in Trastevere and St. Marie in Cosmedio, Italy. 8 The cornerstone for the new building was laid in 1914 and was completed in 1916 at the cost of $150,000. 2 It featured a mild brown brick and terracotta exterior, colored to match Roman Travertine stone, a Verona facade, a roof adorned with imported orange Roman tiles, and a 130-foot-tall campanile. The interior included a choir gallery, and two votive chapels, 8 and a barrel-vaulted sanctuary with three consecrated altars built from Botticino marble. 2 9 The high altar contained images of the twelve apostles, surmounted by a baldacchino comprised of Breccia marble. 2 9 The side altars featured Lady as Queen of Angels and Mother Hen, and St. Joseph as Scion of the House of David and Patron of the Universal Church. A mural in the sanctuary, which depicted the Lamb of God, was painted by Leo Mirabile. Several statues included Sacred Heart, St. Anne, St. Mark, and St. Rose, all constructed of Carrara marble. Zettler of Munich, Germany crafted the stained glass windows.

The school burned in 1922 and immediately replaced in the following year. 9 A large pipe organ, built by Kilgen, was installed in 1933. 2 A bowling alley and youth club were added to the church in the 1940s. A Mission House for the Precious Blood Fathers, designed by A.M. Strauss of Fort Wayne, Indiana, was built in 1950 and replaced the original frame church building. 10 It contained residences for the pastor and assistant pastors and space for the mission band and meeting rooms for parish societies.

Decline

Over 1,200 families worshipped regularly during St. Mark’s height in the mid-1950s. 2 The neighborhood began to decline shortly thereafter because of suburban developments that began to siphon residents from Cincinnati. 2 5 Additionally, the construction of Interstate 71 adjacent to the church in 1972 destroyed hundreds of homes and forcing the relocation of over a thousand, starving the church of its congregation. By the late 20th century, St. Mark’s had just a small congregation of mostly African-American Catholics. 2

Owing to the high cost of maintaining an aging facility and a shortage of priests, the parish began preparing for a merger in 1991 as part of the Future Projects strategic plan by the Cincinnati archdiocese. 5 Between four parishes, the combined membership was just over 500 worshippers spread between 11 buildings.

With 95 students, the St. Mark Catholic school closed in May 2002. 1 9 Students were urged to attend Corryville Catholic School which had planned to relocate to St. Mark’s school building. Instead, Corryville Catholic decided to remain in their building in June 2004 and the St. Mark school building was leased to National Heritage Academies, a charter school. Due to the more substantial student body, the bowling alley was removed and the space renovated into seven classrooms.

Declaring that four of the parishes could not continue to operate independently in 2008, it was decided to merge the four into one with a combined congregation of 550 worshipers. 5 A decree by Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr formed the Church of the Resurrection on July 14, 2010, which combined St. Agnes in Bond Hill, St. Martin de Porres in Lincoln Heights, and St. Andrew in Avondale into the St. Agnes building as it had a newer structure with a seating capacity of 350 persons. 2 5

On July 25, St. Mark held its last service to a predominately African-American parish. 1 The first Mass at the Church of the Resurrection was held at 10 a.m. on August 1.

Preservation Concepts

The practice of Latin Mass, which is based upon the traditional Latin liturgy, has been practiced in Cincinnati since 1988 under the endorsement of the Archdiocese. 3 The first Masses were held at St. Monica’s Church in Clifton before relocating to the Sacred Heart Church in Camp Washington. From that, Archbishop Pilarczyk formed a Chaplaincy to encompass the Sacred Heart Church and the Holy Rosary Church in Dayton in an effort to provide greater provisions for those who were worshiping the traditional liturgy.

Since the Chaplaincy was formed, a parish was created for Dayton at Holy Family, and properties were scouted for a Cincinnati parish. 3 It was not until St. Mark became available that serious thought was put forth towards the purchase of the property. detailed proposal for the acquisition and restoration of St. Mark, estimated to cost $2 million, was developed. 3 David Kuhlman, of Jaeger Nickola and Associates of Chicago, was retained as an adviser during the restoration process. A Property Conditions Assessment and Church Restoration Master Plan were prepared. The assessment and plan were based upon a thorough inspection encompassing the roof, masonry, paint, electrical, mechanical, and details regarding the fine art and stained glass. Ultimately, the idea did not receive the support of the Archbishop.

Another idea, from the Evanston Community Council, is to renovate the former sanctuary into a community center.


Gallery

Historic






Further Reading


Sources

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  1. Bradley, Eric. “Last services held at three Catholic Churches.” Cincinnati Enquirer 25 July 2010. 13 May 2011 Article.
  2. Paver, Ashley. “History of St. Mark’s Church.” The Campaign to Restore St. Mark’s Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2011. Article.
  3. Paver, Ashley. “Our Vision for St. Mark’s.” The Campaign to Restore St. Mark’s Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2011. Article.
  4. Paver, Ashley. “Project Overview.” The Campaign to Restore St. Mark’s Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2011. Article.
  5. Yount, Dan. “Merger of four Black parishes being finalized.” Cincinnati Herald 3 April 2010. 15 May 2011 Article.
  6. “Church of the Resurrection Newly merged congregation celebrates first Mass Aug. 1.” Cincinnati Herald 31 July 2010. 15 May 2011 Article.
  7. Fortin, Roger Antonio. “Relations with Regular Clergy.” Faith and action: a history of the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 1821-1996. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2002. 188-190. Print.
  8. Federal Writers’ Project. “Tour 15: Victory Parkway – Evanston – Oakley – Madisonville.” Cincinnati: A Guide to the Queen City and Its Neighbors. Wiesen-Hart Press: Cincinnati, 1943. 317. Print.
  9. “History of St. Mark Catholic Church.” Celebrating National Black Catholic History Month. Cincinnati: Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 2009. 118-119. Print.
  10. “St. Mark Catholic Church, Precious Blood Fathers Building Mission House.” Catholic Telegraph 25 Mar. 1949. 16 Oct. 2013. Article.

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19 Comments

  1. Our family moved to Evanston in @1953. I am the oldest of the four boys in the family who attended St. Mark’s . First grade was 1953-54 and our final semester was the fall of 1959. The decline of the neighborhood was prompted by unscrupulous real estate agencies who promoted ‘declining property values’ to the white homeowners. Part of the surge of African-American families was due to the destruction of the West End neighborhoods to build I-75 in the early 1950s [cf. https://cincinnati-transit.net/I-75.html%5D. The only picture missing was the lower parking behind the bowling alley. It was a natural bowl with great walls for softball games! Football and kickball were also recess [and after school] staples. It was a dynamic parish in that period.

  2. Thank you for the history and the beautiful photos! The Evanston Community Council plans to save the building and convert it into a community space. Very exciting! we are all so happy the building will not be demolished. check out https://savestmark.com and make a donation if you are able.

  3. I called to inquire about this property. I wrote an email to the deacon after he called but I am still waiting for a response after two weeks. I don’t think they care to save it. I wanted to make it a museum for the school there but it seems the next developer with money st wants to turn it into a car dealership will prevail. I hope I am wrong.

    I will buy you a cup of coffee any time.

  4. Thank you for this beautiful website. My maternal grandparents were the Froelicher family who lived on Stacey Avenue in Evanston. I have fond memories of Saint Mark’s church.

    Can you remind me of the name of the adjacent cemetery? When my sister was a child in the 1940s, she liked to walk through the cemetery with our grandfather and touch the statues of the angels.

  5. I would like to form a non-profit to preserve this property and St.Andrew church property with some others for the benefit of us who would appreciate it… If interested, contact me. by e-mail and mark it preserve.

  6. I attended St. Mark school and church from 1950 through 1955. I loved every minute I was there and I have wonderful memories of the school, playground, CYO facility, the nuns and especially the church. I made my First Communion there in 1953. It breaks my heart that this beautiful parish facility has been abandoned as so many other Catholic parishes across the country. Thank you so much for furnishing so many beautiful pictures and the history.

    1. i made my 1ST Communion in 1953 nov 8th to be exact still have the little thing commutative plack we got . my najme is bob reilly
      don;t remember an anne stewert

      1. I moved away from that area in 1956. However, I also have my commerative plaque and it states that I received my First Communion on May 3, 1953, I do think the churches, nationwide, wanted First Communion services to be in the month of May.

  7. I would love if this Bride was donated to In My Father’s House Outreach.We would restore back to this community and the life that has been taken from this Bride and community.We are responsible for widows and this Bride.I have a campaign to restore with help of prisoners homeless community working class citizens rich and poor alike believers and non believers hands hearts time and energy to bring back what the devil sold from us.God Bless the United States of America.WE need to protect of Brides &Veterans and children along with the homeless.Lets make a difference with what God has bless us with all these Great Resourcesof this Planet Earth.If we can send a man to the Moon.We the people can and will restore this bride.Rev.R.K.Jenkins 123 Watermoss drive Cleveland,Nc27013

  8. An update: The group that wanted to use St. Marks for a Latin Mass parish announced they were no longer pursuing the project. I believe the renovation costs were a large part of that decision. There’s a lot of structural damage.

  9. Thank you for this collection of photos and story about this beautiful church. I have been very interested in this church since I moved to the area and drive by it on frequent occasion. It would be a true blessing to see this restored to its original glory.

  10. I would love to see St. Mark Church renovated and used as a church again. I grew up in this parish and went to St, Mark’s school through the seventh grade. I have many great memories of this church and school and of Evanston as well.
    Thank you!

  11. Thank you for this documentary and pictures.
    It would be nice to preserve this place for me and others to appreciate.

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