Monday, April 20, 2009

Neighbors Dedicate St. Cecilia Historic District

Saturday morning, neighbors met with elected officials and representatives from other interested organizations to dedicate the new St. Cecilia Historic District in South City. The new historic district is in the Carondelet area, bounded by Grand on the west, Delor on the north, Virginia on the east, and Bates on the South. The anchor institution in the district is the beautiful St. Cecilia Catholic church (photos available at links below).

Dignitaries including State Representative Jake Hummel, 16th Ward Alderman and Director of Institutional Advancement for St. Cecilia's parish, Donna Baringer, 13th Ward Alderman Fred Heitert, newly elected 25th Ward Alderman Shane Cohn were present, along with about 80 neighborhood residents.

The St. Cecilia historic district nomination was prepared by historians Nini Harris and Lynn Josse. Nini and Lynn were introduced and described some of their work in preparing the nomination, including the amazing fact that 673 of the district's original 700 buildings remain standing. After a brief presentation, the professionals turned the dedication over to young people living in the St. Cecilia area.

Carrying an American Flag, 2007 St. Cecilia graduate and current sophomore at Bishop DuBourg High School, Thomas Pollitte, led a processional of young people ranging in ages from about five to twelve to the front of the room. There they stood together, and took turns narrating the story of the historic St. Cecilia area.

The narratives were accompanied by historic images of the area. They spoke of South St. Louis Vernacular architecture, bakery brick buildings, and Arts and Crafts bungalows. They spoke of "window coolers" (someone still has to explain what those are), "coal chutes", and "laundry poles". In the middle of the presentation, right on time and wearing a big smile, one of the youngest presenters marched through the audience holding high over her head an antique wash board made at the Cupples Wooden Ware factory in downtown St. Louis.

After the young people completed their presentation, a choral group from St. Cecilia Academy came to the front of the room. With keyboard accompaniment, in a preview of their upcoming April 30th "Broadway or Bust" musical show, they sang wonderful renditions of "Meet Me In St. Louis" (twenty years of loving that song, and never knowing it had verses to go along with the "Meet Me in St. Louie, Louie" chorus), "There's No Business Like Show Business", and the theme song from the hit Broadway musical "Rent". The singing and music were excellent. STL Rising encourages readers to attend the April 30th, 6:30 p.m. concert.

Fr. William Vatterott spoke of the growth of the parish, now seeing average Sundays draw over 2,000 parishioners, including a solid hispanic base. St. Cecilia's is one of the most beautiful churches in the St. Louis Arch Diocese. Former Arch Bishop Burke authorized St. Cecilia's to take the name, "Cathedral of the South Side".

The St. Cecilia Historic District nomination is a story of people from various backgrounds coming together for the betterment of the overall community. City and state officials, local institutions, historic preservation professionals, neighborhood residents, and local business all supported the effort. At the dedication, there were members of the 2009 graduating class of St. Cecilia Academy, along with graduates from the 1930s and 40s!

Visit these links for more information about the church and school.


Anonymous said...

It is so gratifying to see the preservation and recognition of the wonderful neighborhoods and structures in our fine City. Thanks to all who are involved in this process!!!

Anonymous said...

St. Louis has always been an immigrant city....glad to see the life returning to "older" areas....I hope the hispanics stay in the city rather than moving to the county. Perhaps this historic designation will help...