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Our Rich History: New book celebrates 100th year of Crescent Springs’ St. Joseph Church

Church dedication

Dedication ceremonies of the first church took place on September 3, 1916

By Paul A. Tenkotte
Special to NKyTribune

Centennials are always special occasions. They help us to realize that, as human beings, we establish, build, and sustain institutions meant to outlast our own needs and to serve others well into the future. Centennials connect us to our communities, to something larger than ourselves.

A new book, entitled St. Joseph Parish, Crescent Springs, Kentucky, 1916-2016: The First 100 Years, has just been released. With over 100 illustrations, this well-researched and sprightly written account traces the history of the parish—and its suburban communities of Crescent Springs and Villa Hills—from a quiet farming area to the heart of suburbia. Sarah Barlage Bilott, Susan Barth, Barb Fritz, and others have produced an impressive historical account at a very affordable price ($5).

St. Joseph

This painting of St. Joseph by noted Covington artist Johann Schmitt, adorns the church today.

In 1916, St. Joseph Catholic Church was established in Crescent Springs, a small Kentucky community along the Cincinnati Southern Railroad. The church served a congregation of farmers, as well as commuters who rode the train daily to and from work in Cincinnati. Following the dedication services for the first church on Sunday, September 3, 1916, the parishioners served a chicken dinner, beginning a long tradition of hospitality.

In September 1917, the Sisters of St. Benedict assumed charge of the parish school. In a community that was not yet served by city water and sewage, the schoolchildren used outhouses.

Life was slower-paced in the early-20th century. Robert Noll, Sr. recalled that the grand prize for a parish festival in 1919 was a 35-pound bag of sugar. The festival featured fried chicken dinners—so fresh, in fact, that the “chickens were killed, dressed and fried in the church yard,” and “parishioners helped serve vegetables from their farms” (p. 4) By 1929, St. Joe’s summer festival used a bus to transport festival-goers to and from the end of the old Fort Mitchell streetcar line.

In 1947, Rev, George J. Stier was appointed pastor. He oversaw the construction of a new brick school in 1952 to accommodate a growing enrollment. It was the first of a number of building projects that the parish would undertake in the next four decades, as subdivisions replaced the bucolic farms.

The parish constructed a larger church that opened in May 1960. Meanwhile, the old church building became a gymnasium. The school, which was growing by leaps and bounds, received additions in 1964, 1975-76, and 1985-86. In 2006, it was named a United States Department of Education Blue Ribbon School. A major renovation to the church was dedicated in 1995, during the pastorate of Rev. Ray Hartman.

Ground breaking for new church

Rev.George Stier broke ground for a new church on September 8, 1958

St. Joe’s centennial book is replete with anecdotes collected by a dedicated team of historians. These stories recall events and customs that are quickly disappearing from memory. They enliven the book, which is a true keepsake for everyone interested in the history of Catholicism or in the life of suburban Northern Kentucky.

Copies of the centennial book can be purchased for $5 each at Crestville Drugs and at Kremer’s Market, both in Crescent Springs, or at the St. Joseph Parish Office, 2470 Lorraine Court, Monday-Thursday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday 9 a.m. to noon.
We want to learn more about the history of your business, church, school, or organization in our region (Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky). If you would like to share your rich history with others, please contact the editor of “Our Rich History,” Paul A. Tenkotte, at tenkottep@nku.edu. Paul A. Tenkotte is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Public History at NKU.

Noll Family

Since 1955, Tom Noll and his family have prepared fried chicken dinners for the parish’s Summer Festival. They were featured in the June 2003 issue of Cincinnati Magazine.

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