Howell General Baptist is one of the oldest congregations in the Evansville area. It was founded in 1823 as Liberty General Baptist by Benoni Stinson, who established the General Baptist branch with this being the mother church.
In 1891–when Howell was still a separate town–the Liberty General Baptist congregation built a church at the northeast corner of Rose and Signal Streets, what is now Delmar Ave and Emerson St. (The streets of Howell would eventually be renamed from their railroad specific names around the turn of the century). It was situated across from the original Howell Public School that later became known as Daniel Wertz.
In 1916 the church solicited the help of famed architect Clifford Shopbell to build a new church building. The brick Neoclassical structure was erected on the same site as the old structure.
A sizable addition was built in 1955 just left (north) of the church. This too would eventually be enlarged to include a second story. The church would eventually buy the old Daniel Wertz school, which moved out to South Red Bank Rd in 1986. The vacated school was purchased the following year and for a while was used for storage until it was razed around 1990.
Tucked on Mulberry St between 2nd and 3rd Sts, the Christian Science Temple is 100 years old. The Church of Christ, Scientist was founded in Boston in the late 1800s. Not to be confused with Scientology, this denomination is most well-known for its publication Christian Science Monitor. The church was established in Evansville in 1915, and built this edifice in the Neoclassical style. It was designed by famous local architects Shopbell & Co and truly has that Greek temple look. The church was built of stone with a green tile roof and reads “THE ETERNAL GOD IS THY REFUGE” under the pediment.
Bethany Apostolic moved here from their old location in 1930. The church has remained stewards of the building and still operate here 85 years later.
Assumption Catholic Church was the first Catholic parish in Evansville, but its fate was unbefitting of such a glorious building. Originally founded in 1836, the original church used to be located at 2nd and Sycamore Sts, but its success and growth warranted a grander building. In April 1871 a lot was purchased at Seventh St and Vine St, just catercorner from Old Central school. Work on the beautiful new Assumption church began July 7, 1872, when the cornerstone was laid and completed later that year at a cost of $75,000.
A school was erected in 1881 next to the church on 7th St. Continued growth demanded a larger school which was built in 1928 replacing the old one. The church prospered for years and when the Catholic church created the Diocese of Evansville in 1944, Assumption became the cathedral, or head church, for the area.
When Evansville planned to built a new Civic Center, Assumption found itself located within the proposed area. To boot, the downtown area had been experiencing mass exodus as residents flocked to the suburbs. With Holy Trinity and St Mary’s nearby, the downtown area could not support three Catholic churches. These factors combined made the decision to close the parish easier than it should have been. The church had to get approval from the Vatican to shut its doors, and the last mass was held January 17, 1965.
After showering the downtown area with its beauty for nearly a century, the church was razed in May 1965. The Winfield K Denton federal building, which houses the downtown post office, is now located on this site. Anyone who remembers this beautiful church can attest that it was one of the saddest losses in Evansville’s history.
Assumption church as seen from the 1888 Bird's Eye View map
An early photo of the church before the tower was redone (circa 1904)
An old postcard of Assumption Catholic Church
The old Assumption School in the early 1900s
An austere building, Assumption Catholic Church was one of the gems of downtown
The old school was replaced with this new, larger one in 1928
Death row: The church and school (right) await demolition for the new Civic Center. The Cook Brewery was also facing the axe.
Assumption Church is demolished in 1965 to make way for the new Civic Center
The death blow was delivered as the wrecking ball toppled the tower. The Old Central tower watches in the background, though it found a similar fate a few years later.
Holy Trinity Catholic church, an unimposing little church downtown on 3rd St, has the distinction of being Evansville’s oldest Catholic parish. Originally the second oldest, it took that title from Assumption Church when it was torn down in 1965 for the Civic Center. But what most people may remember was the beautiful old church building that burned down in 1950.
With the boom of German immigrants into Evansville, Holy Trinity was the result of the need for a German-speaking parish (Assumption was English-speaking). The cornerstone was laid in 1849, but a cholera epidemic halted construction. The church was finally completed in 1851 and Holy Trinity parish was born.
The church occupied the entire half block of Third St between Court St (originally Division St) and Vine St. The gorgeous chuch with its tall spire was a downtown landmark. A huge school building was on the corner of Vine which for a time served as the Catholic high school (before Memorial was built).
A sister’s home was located behind the school fronting Vine St. A new rectory was built in 1912 on the corner of 3rd and Court which is still standing but hidden by the later addition of the education building
Sadly, after standing for a century the church was struck by lightning Easter Sunday and burned down April 3, 1950. The blaze completely gutted the church as seen here in this photo from the Evansville Courier. Downtown lost one of its most prominent churches, and the city skyline was noticeably missing something. Mass was temporarily held in the school while the present Holy Trinity church was being built. When it burned, it was the oldest Catholic church in the city. While Trinity is still the oldest congregation, St Mary Catholic Church, built 1867, is now the oldest Catholic church building in town.
With its massive twin towers, St Boniface towers over the West Side of Evansville. Having served the community for 130+ years, it stands as a visual landmark for the surrounding area. The church can even be seen in several pictures from downtown.
St Boniface was originally built in 1881 as the first Catholic Church west of Pigeon Creek–only Assumption (gone), Holy Trinity (rebuilt), and St Mary are older. Several prominent West Siders facilitated the formation of the parish and helped finance it. The church was rebuilt after fire Easter weekend 1902, but retains much of the original look. The towers are a bit wider and shorter and there are dormers on the sides that used to not exist. A c1900 carriage house is located behind the church. One other thing of note is the grotto, 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, though it reopened in the 1970s as a mini-museum.
The school at the back of the block along 10th Ave was built in 1923. It actually replaced an older school on the corner where the parking lot now is. The original school was built in 1885 and can be seen in several old pictures. For a while it even housed a parochial high school. After the new school was built it was used for some time but eventually was torn down in 1951.
The sisters’ home along Michigan St was built in 1907. The nuns who taught at the school used to reside in the old school building, but as space became limited it was determined to give them a separate structure. It still stands but isn’t used except for storage.
The rectory at the corner of Wabash and Virginia was built in 1892. It is a fine example of Victorian living and blends in well with houses in the vicinity.
I always thought the Scottish Rite was an eccentric building. We had school dances there including my senior prom. When I was doing research I discovered the old First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, sometimes called Chestnut St Church, at that same location. I started looking into it and found out that that church and the Scottish Rite are one in the same and you can still see details of the old building if you look closely.
First Cumberland Presbyterian, built in 1876 to replace the old church across the street, was a beautiful church (shown at left around the turn of the century) that dominated the skyline with its massive towers. It prospered for many years at this corner until the Cumberland Presbyterian church merged back with the Presbyterian church. The congregation joined with Grace Presbyterian in 1909 and moved into their church at 2nd and Mulberry in an equally splendid building. The vacated church was then sold to the Masons and used as a Shriners Temple / Masonic Lodge
We are still looking for the specific deatils but sometime in the 1960s or 70s the corner tower was removed and the front addition was built completely changing the street presence of the building. A current view of the Scottish Rite from the side (along 2nd St) and from the rear really give you a feel of the magnitude and scale of the original church.