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|1902||Fire destroys building and is rebuilt|
St. Boniface (1881) st boniface roman catholic church on wabash ave in evansville was photographed for stereopticon slide viewing shortly after the edifice, one of the largest and grandest on the lower Ohio, was completed in 1881 its parishoners were largely german immigrants who worked in west side furniture factories and other wood processing works
St. Boniface's parish was organized in 1880 to serve the residents on the west side. The first move to build this church was a meeting of prominent Catholic Germans at the residence of Mr. Charles Schulte in 1878. A letter setting forth the facts was sent to the bishop, and a lot on Wabash avenue worth $10,000 was purchased for $5,000 for the site of the parish buildings. On January 4th, 1880, Rev. Bishop Chatard visited Evansville and received the deed to the property from the gentlemen, created the St. Boniface's parish and appointed Rev. William Bultmann as pastor. At the meeting of interested Catholics $10,000 was promptly pledged in support of the new parish. Work was begun on the temporary frame church on February 1st of that year and on the following Sunday, high mass and vespers were sung in the same. After two months an addition had to be made to accommodate the people and in less than a year later, this building was torn down, to give room for the present grand edifice. The cornerstone of the present St Boniface's church was laid with imposing ceremonies on September 4, 1881, by Rev. Roman Wein- zoepfel. All of the Catholics of Evansville were out and the day was a memorable one. The work on the new church was pushed rapidly that the church was dedicated on April 27th, of the following year. The church has two spires and stands 202 feet high. Founded in january 1880, in the home of Charles Schulte, St Boniface Catholic church was the fourth of Evansville's Catholic parishes and the third of its German-speaking Catholic congregations. The men who gathered at Schulte's to lay plans for the organization of the church also included August Rosenberger, Anthony J Klein, Adam Helfriech and John T Rechtin. Subsequently, funds were raised, the Wabash Avenue site was purchased, and construction on a substantial brick church was underway by late 1881. massive, twin-spired edifice executed in what was termed "Byzantine style with a touch of Roman." At the time, a remark was made that the church was very conspicuous in Independence; it remains so today, and its spires can be seen from many points in the area.
The first school was a small frame building about one block away from the original church. It was erected in the spring of 1881, though by 1885 a new school was needed because of overcrowding. The second school, built at the corner of Michigan Street and Wabash Avenue, can be seen in the picture above. The six-room building cost $10,000 and was dedicated in December 1885. The sisters' home was also in the school until they got their own building in 1907. The school served the parish well until it was replaced with a more modern building in 1923. It was eventually torn down in 1951 and made into the current parking lot. A new and larger school (present building) was built in 1923 on the west end of the lot. It was brick and stone and had a had a labratory, an office, an auditorium, a gymnasium, and a cafeteria. A parish school was erected in 1885 at a cost of $10,000. In 1885 a splendid school building was erected at a cost of $10,000. The first school was built by Mr. Adam Helfrich and its use donated by him for a year. This has been torn away and a beautiful building with an imposing exterior put in its stead. the old, nineteenth-century schoolhouse was eventually razed for a playground, which, in turn, became a parking lot.
In 1902 (march 30 easter sunday), a fire started by lightning destroyed the church, but plans were made immediately to rebuild it. The architectural services of Harris & Shopbell were called upon and Anthony Kessler was secured as the general contractor. The church was completed by June 1903. Although the plan varied somewhat from the old one (the towers supporting the spires were a bit taller and side walls had gabled dormers), the overall appearance of the new edifice corresponded to that of the first one.
grotto 1914 donated by jacob fischer http://www.courierpress.com/news/2008/nov/27/a-quiet-holy-place/
1917 switched from German to English during the height of WWI, one of first in evansville to do so
In 1923, a new school was constructed at the rear, paralleling 10th Ave. This building is still in use,
The St. Boniface grotto, modeled after Lady of Lourdes in France, was built underneath the church in 1914. The flood of 1937 filled the grotto with 3 feet of water damaging several statues and caused it to closed soon after. The grotto reopened in 1972 as sort of a mini-museum, displaying St. Boniface relics. Tours are given at various times throughout the year.