The Building of St. William Parish - by Tom Connor, December 2021
In 1902, Cincinnati architect, Joseph Steinkamp purchased an 1860s farmhouse at 912 Suire Avenue and moved there with his wife Laura and their elder son Albert. Shortly after the move, their second son Eugene was born. This home is currently the residence of Bob and Valda Moore. Joseph, along with his brother and partner, Bernard almost immediately started designing homes on Suire Avenue and in several other locations in Price Hill.
The St. William Parish was founded in November of 1909 when Archbishop Henry Moeller decided that a new parish was needed in Price Hill to relieve St. Lawrence of its growing number of parishioners. The first of the brothers’ several collaborations with Reverend Francis Roth and St. William Roman Catholic Church began the following year when the Steinkamps designed a temporary church building to seat 400 people. It was to be located on Fifth Avenue(now Rosemont Avenue) on the corner of Reed Avenue (now St. William Avenue) in 1910. The temporary church was built on a piece of property owned by Mr. Herman Elsaeller and cost $3,736.80 to build. The Reverend John Schonhoft, pastor of St. Lawrence Church dedicated the new church in May of 1910.
That year, the St. William’s Men’s Society was organized, and Joseph Steinkamp was elected Vice President of the group. The St. Ann Society was also organized that year and Laura Steinkamp was elected as its first President and their meetings were held at her home on Suire Avenue. It was reported that Joseph was one of three contributors who donated the bells for the first St. William church.
After a meeting of the congregation the following year, the Steinkamps were commissioned to draw up plans for a new school building for St. William Parish, on the corner ofSunset Avenue and W. Eighth Street, that was estimated to cost $38,500. Archbishop Moeller officiated at the school’s dedication in Price Hill in August of 1912, following a 1,000-manparade from the Incline to the school.
Of note, Joseph appeared to be fond of automobiles and was a member of the Cincinnati Auto Club. Unfortunately, in 1913 he ran over and seriously injured a 12-year-old boy on Seton Avenue. As it happened, Father Roth was riding with Joseph and carried the unconscious boy to a neighbor’s home where he was attended to by a doctor.
Due to a rapidly growing enrollment at the school, in 1915 Joseph and Bernard designed a two-room $10,000 addition to the building. Around this time, the 1911 church was moved down Reed Avenue next to the school and was used as part of the school until it was eventually demolished in 1954. The old church may have been moved down Reed Avenue on rollersaccording to early parishioners.
The Steinkamp’s work for St. William Parish continued in 1922 with the addition of the Parish House, costing about $25,000.
In March of 1929, the Steinkamps signed an agreement with Father Roth to design a spectacular new church to replace the old St. William Church under the guidance of Reverend Roth. The cost of this beautiful structure in the Romanesque Revival style was $400,000 (about $6 million in 2020 currency). The church was part of a half-million-dollar parish development program that included the rectory and sisters’ house.
In August of that year, the church held a three-day festival and carnival to raise money for the building fund. Unfortunately, just a few weeks later, the stock market crashed, and some aspects of the project were scaled back. It would be almost ten years before the proposed stained-glass windows would replace the plain glass ones. St. William Church was named after St. William the Abbot and in memory of Archbishop William Elder, and Archbishop John T. McNicholas presided over the dedication on October 4, 1931. Among the church’s many beautiful features are the 12 Italian marble columns, one for each apostle. The 18-foot great rose stained-glass window was created by the G. C. Riordan Studio in 1940.
In order to pay off the massive debt incurred in the church’s construction, Reverend Francis Reardon, who took over as pastor following Reverend Roth’s passing, started what is believed to be the first bingo games sponsored by a churcClick HEREh. It was said that the games were so popular that people came from as far away as Indianapolis to play and that up to 25 streetcars would be lined up on W. Eighth Street to take people home after the games.
Fittingly, when Joseph passed away in 1948, his brother, Father George Steinkamp, sang the requiem solemn mass at St. William Church.
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