635 Steiner Avenue Sedamsville, OH
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church
This outstanding German Gothic Revival church is the primary landmark of the West Side neighborhood of Sedamsville. Vacant since 1989, the church was stabilized by the City of Cincinnati in April 2012 and is now ready for renovation. It needs a new owner who can creatively rehabilitate it for a new use that respects the building and the neighborhood.
Built in 1889, the church building features a rose window, corbelled brickwork and a soaring 170’ spire. Beautifully sited on a hillside overlooking River Road (US Route 50), it is visible from the Ohio River and the Kentucky shore. The church was designed by prolific German-American church architect Adolph Druiding.
The building contains 5720 square feet and occupies a 100 x 120’ lot. A small parking lot is included in the sale. Zoning is Residential Mixed. The predominant land use is single- and multi-family residential, with some neighborhood commercial uses.
Loated three miles from downtown, Sedamsville occupies a wooded valley beside the river. Unique among Cincinnati’s neighborhoods, it is surrounded by protected greenspace. The neighborhood is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district, so federal and state tax credits are available for rehabilitation. Contact CPA for details about this unique redevelopment opportunity.
Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA), a nonprofit, member-supported preservation advocacy group serving Greater Cincinnati.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help is located within the Sedamsville neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio and was constructed in 1889 in the Gothic Revival architectural style. Long a landmark for anyone traveling eastward along River Road and U.S. Route 50, Our Lady of Perpetual Help closed in 1989 when it merged with another parish.
The beginnings of Our Lady of Perpetual Help date to the first English filial congregation of the Catholic church on Sycamore Street, St. Francis Xavier, that was in charge of the Jesuit Fathers.3 Considered the “mother” English-speaking parish in Cincinnati, St. Xavier was instrumental in arranging the development of Catholicism in the western and eastern parts of the city.Because Cincinnati was considered a booming community in the 1800’s, relating its gains to the meatpacking industries and its location along the Ohio River, it was not long before a new church was needed outside of St. Xavier.3 A large Irish population had developed on the southwestern part of the city, and in 1850, it was proposed to build a church on the northeast corner of 3rd and Mill Streets. The lease was signed on May 1 by Lemuel Page, John Bonte and John T. Chambers to Reverend John B. Purcell for $1,800 with the privilege of purchase at a price of $7,000.4 That privilege was exercised in May 1853.
Father Cahill, to whom the organization of the new church was entrusted to, built St. Patrick’s cathedral in the same year, and it was blessed by Bishop Lamy on November 24.5
The first filial church of St. Patrick’s came only a little more than a decade later. The parish of the Atonement on West 3rd Street was begun in 1870 as a chapel for the Sisters of Mercy, but was converted into a parish church with Father Homan as pastor.5 The second filial church of St. Patrick’s was St. Vincent de Paul’s in Sedamsville, on the west side of Cincinnati. St. Vincent was completed in 1861 under the organization of Father McLeod.6
In 1878, a division occurred within the parish of St. Vincent de Paul,2 when German-speaking Catholics desired a Catholic school.6a Organized by Father Otto Jair, O.F.M. on January 27, Our Lady of Perpetual Help was formed in Sedamsville on Cincinnati’s west end, and was made official on May 12, 1878.1 An old stone school house near the Ohio River on Sedam Street was purchased, with the upper floor being dedicated to church services, while the basement served as a school and teacher residence.6a Several years later, a new parochial residence was constructed on Dehli Avenue.1
Frequent flooding required relocation, and property was purchased along Steiner Avenue for a new church. On June 10, 1888, the cornerstone was laid for the new building, and the new facility, designed in the Gothic Revival architectural style, was dedicated on May 5, 1889.1 2 Stretching for 145-feet in length, 51-feet in width, transept 70-feet and soaring high for 170-feet, the church that was perched on the hillside offered a commanding presence that overlooked the business district of Sedamsville.
The church contained four bells in the tower and an organ that was given to the parish by Pope Leo XIII.2 The basement housed the parochial school, while the edifice contained furnishings that cost approximately $30,000.1
In 1890-91, a new parsonage was constructed and the old residence was reused as a house for the Sisters who taught in the parochial school.1 In 1907, a new three-story school structure was constructed, although it was closed in 1976.2
The Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was shuttered in 1989 when it merged with the Holy Family parish in East Price Hill.2 The building was stripped of any decorative items, and the church bells and organ were installed at Holy Family.
In 1995, the church was purchased by John Klosterman from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, who intended on redeveloping the property. Klosterman, who owned numerous properties in Sedamsville, along with his partner Jim Grawe, hoped for city and private financing to remake Sedamsville from a low-income neighborhood, hemmed in by steep hillsides and transportation arteries, into another East End – which is decidedly more upscale.
In the fall of 2010, the Sedamsville Building Committee requested to the city that the deteriorating church be demolished, citing that the property had become a blight and a safety hazard.8 A few days prior to demolition, Klosterman and the Cincinnati Preservation Association struck a deal that would give the group two years to stabilize the church and market it nationally so that it can be resold.
In April 2012, the city funded $200,000 in repairs to the steeple, board up the damaged windows, repair a collapsed balcony and shore up the interior floor.9
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