There have been religious buildings in St. Louis from the earliest period of French settlement. In 1775 the first permanent church was constructed of logs; a brick church was begun in 1818 but never finished. Little is known about the design of the very early churches; most no longer stand, having been demolished-long before the razing of the original city blocks-when commercial and industrial expansion had driven congregations westward to the outskirts of town.
Greek Revival Style
The oldest church still standing in St. Louis is the Old Cathedral, completed in 1834, a design by the early St. Louis architectural firm of Morton and Laveille. The limestone structure is the oldest cathedral west of the Mississippi, and was the first Greek Revival building in Missouri. The front and tower are sheathed in smooth, ashlar stone; the rest of the building was completed in coursed rubble. The front facade has a projecting portico with four Doric columns supporting a frieze and pediment. Above a tall, narrow steeple with lancet openings once contained a clock. The side elevations have six bays, each containing a tall, round-arched window.
Romanesque Revival Style
The Romanesque Revival-and Gothic Revival style as well-is a product of the Picturesque movement, which became popular in American literature, painting, and architecture, in the time before the Civil War. The Picturesque was an appeal to emotion and sentiment in contrast to the logic and order of the previous classical period. The romanticism of the Gothic and Romanesque stands in contrast to the refined geometry found in Federal and Greek Revival designs.
The Romanesque Revival had a significant influence on St. Louis church architecture in the Walking City period. A few of these buildings remain, most notably SS. Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church, St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Church and St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church, which were all constructed during the 1840's and 50's. Romanesque Revival buildings are characterized by round-arched windows, arched corbel tables, and one or two towers at the front facade.
SS. Cyril and Methodius Church is the oldest of the Romanesque Revival churches left in the city. Designed by Eugene Greenleaf in 1857, its exterior decoration is restrained. The red brick church has an asymmetrically placed tower on the south side of the front facade. The north and south elevations have tall round arched windows, that are interspersed with pilasters.
Gothic Revival Style
The Gothic Revival style was equally predominant with the Romanesque in St. Louis church design between the 1830's and 1860's. Gothic Revival churches that still stand are the Unitarian Church of the Unity, and the Lutheran churches of Holy Cross and Trinity Evangelical. These churches are characterized by narrow, pointed arched windows, steeply pitched roofs and ornate portals at the entrance.
Holy Cross Lutheran Church, at 2650 Miami Street in the Dutchtown neighborhood, was constructed in 1869, at the end of the Walking City period. However, it is similar in form to many St. Louis Gothic Revival churches that dated from the Walking City period and have been demolished. The brick church has a centrally placed tower on the north facade, which projects above the steeply pitched gable roof. A large pointed-arched window is centered above the entry portal on the tower, with windows on either side. Tall pinnacles rise from slender buttresses at each corner, emphasizing the verticality of the building. Note that the amount of wall surface is considerably reduced from that of the two preceding styles, and the exterior of the church more highly decorated.