The parish dates from 1865, and the church and other parish buildings date from 1960. According to the parish history:
The Civil War was just closing its gory annals of fratricidal fury, when a group of parishioners went to Archbishop Kenrick with the request for a new Catholic parish.One hundred years ago, the parish was in decline. Industrialization converted much of the neighborhood into factories, including the establishment of the Garment District along Washington Avenue, which was a great national center of clothing manufacture. A change in mission helped turn around the fortunes of this parish:
They lived too far from St. Joseph's Church, they told him. "Secure a suitable place, and I will lend a helping hand," were the friendly words of the church authorities.
The following October 1865, a prominent site on the north-east corner of 19th St. and Lucas Avenue was finally purchased for the sum of $10,500.00. The work progressed so favorably that Archbishop Kenrick was able to lay the cornerstone of the new St. Nicholas Church on May 4, 1866.
A brighter day dawned for St. Nicholas when in September 1926, the church, school and the rectory of the famous old landmark of St. Louis Catholic history was entrusted to the care of the Society of the Divine Word, to serve as a Mission Church for the downtown district and to evangelize the African-American population who meanwhile had moved and were moving into the neighborhood.The Societas Verbi Divini (S.V.D.) still staffs the parish. This missionary society is one of the few major men's religious order that has seen signifcant growth over the last thirty years, having 6000 members in 60 countries. The Society also staffs Resurrection of Our Lord parish in Saint Louis.
The Rev. Joseph Holken, SVD became the fifth pastor of the spiritual parish. His was a gigantic task, but friends were not lacking. Many of the old parishoners gave generously of their time and money. Fr. Holken, SVD labored successfully not only in remodelling all the buildings, but likewise in increasing the school enrollment and inaugurating weekly noonday novenas and noonday masses(that continue to this day) that became so popular with the downtown business people. His efforts were continued by the Rev. Frederick M. Reichelt, SVD who was appointed the sixth pastor from 1932-1937. This marks a period of growth and expansion. The Archbishop was asked permission to acquire adjacent property. He not only consented but was also so generous that, at the end of the expansion, St. Nicholas had acquired three-quarters of an entire city block.
The church is in the modern style, and the interior is well-appointed for Catholic worship; there are some fine stained glass windows and many devotional icons which are not seen in these photos. Lack of time prevented me from taking more.
Altar decorated for Easter.
The parish is now near a major new population center: a population that is largely unchurched, and so is an excellent mission field. My other photos of the church are here and here.
701 North 18th Street
Saint Louis, Missouri 63103