The Hill


The earliest Roman Catholic parish in the area was St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a German congregation, which was organized by Vicar-General Muehlsiepen in January, 1892. Its first services were held in a house at Magnolia and Sublette. Rev. F.G. Holweck was appointed as its first pastor and construction of a temporary church was begun in August, 1892. The parochial school was opened in early September, with 24 pupils, at which time there were sixty families in the parish. Ten acres were purchased in the vicinity of Magnolia and January Avenues and three blocks were laid out on the property, with the center one reserved for the church. Lots on the other blocks were quickly sold and the parish soon contained 130 families.

The cornerstone for a large brick church was laid on May 7, 1898, but only the basement was completed and used for church services for some years. By 1900, a small colony of Italians was among the worshippers at St. Aloysius Church. Rev. Francis G. Brand, who became pastor in 1903, paid off the church debt and erected a convent and a parochial residence.

On May 2, 1925, the cornerstone of the present brick Romanesque church was laid, and the structure was dedicated by Archbishop Glennon on April 25, 1926. Total cost was $145,000. the church hall is located at 5629 South magnolia Avenue and the parochial school, erected in 1964, is at 5632 North Magnolia, adjoining the church. An important factor in the development of the Italian Community known as the "hill", was the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. In the first years of the twentieth century there was no Italian Catholic church to serve the newly populated district there.

In 1903, Rev. Ceasor Spigardi of St. Charles Borromeo Church, established a mission for the Italians in the basement of St. Aloysius German Catholic Church. This was followed by a drive to obtain funds to build an Italian church in the district. A site at Cooper (now Marconi) Street and Wilson Avenue was purchased and a frame church was dedicated there on August 3, 1903. It was named for St. Ambrose and was attended from St. Charles Borromeo Church for four years with Spigardi as pastor. On June 1, 1907, it was placed in the charge of Rev. Luciano Carotti.

St. Ambrose Parochial School was opened at 2110 Cooper Street in 1906. It was frame structure of two rooms and was also the home of Father Carotti. The church soon became an important force in the Italian community and several religious societies were organized in the parish. The original frame church was destroyed by fire in 1921. A temporary chapel was established in the former German Evangelical church on Shaw Avenue. It had been purchased by the Catholic church in 1919. Rev. Julius Giovannini was appointed as pastor of St Ambrose in 1923 and within a year had paid off the parish debt. Plans were soon underway for a new church and on May 30, 1925, the cornerstone was laid. The new $250,000 structure was dedicated on June 27, 1926. It is in the Lombard Romanesque style, similar to the ancient San Ambrogio Church in Milan. The exterior walls are of brick and terra cotta, with a campanile to the rear of the structure. The interior has a high barrel vault ceiling consisting of three naves. These are separated by arches resting on six columns. Five new bells for the church were purchased through donations from parishners. A change in St. Ambrose parish occurred in 1955, when it was redefined froma national parish to a territorial one and basically the parish encompasses the Hill. The present parochial school building at 5120 Wilson Avenue was completed in 1949-50. The Sacred Heart Villa and Day Nursery at Wilson and Macklind was built in 1940, with an addition in 1969. Holy innocents parish was founded in 1893 by Rev. John White. A frame church was erected at Reber Place and Brannon Avenue and was still in use in 1928. The parochial school was established by Rev. Timothy O'Sullivan in 1922. The present church at the northwest corner of South Kingshighway and Odell Street was completed in 1957. and the parochial school at 4926 Reber Place was opened in 1942. The hall and convent at kingshighway and Reber was built in 1953.

The Italian Evangelical (Protestant) Church was founded in 1921 by Rev. Peter Ottolini. Its first location was at 2109 Edwards Street and in 1929 it relocated at 5343 Botanical Avenue.

The Bethelehem German Evangelical Church was established at Shaw and Hereford Avenues in 1889 and remained there until 1910, when it relocated at 5801 Southwest Avenue. In 1928, it meged with the Messiah Evangelical Church (founded in 1924), and the combined congregations adopted the name of Mount Tabor Church aat 6520 Arsenal Street.

Pattison Avenue Negro Baptist Church was organized in 1897 and was located at 5232 Pattison. It remained in existence there until 1970, when its site became a part of the right-of-way for interstate Highway 44.

Image- St. Ambrose Roman Catholic Church.
Image- The Altar and Interior of St. Ambrose Church.
Image- St. Joseph's Day Bread and Patisserie Offering - 1977.
Image- Italian Evangelical Church.
Image- Pattison Avenue Baptist Church.
Image- Nocturnal View of St. Ambrose Church.