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St. Stephen Church and Rectory

St Stephen Church and Rectory, 224 Dayton Street, Hamilton, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Since 1989 the St. Stephen building has housed St. Julie Billiart parish, a merger of three Hamilton Roman Catholic churches. Joining St. Stephen in the consolidation -- ordered in January 1988 by the Cincinnati Archdiocese --were St. Mary, 111 South Front Street, and St. Vernonica, 1205 Kahn Avenue. The last services at the three churches were Sunday, April 2, 1989. Shortly after the merger, renovation started at the former St. Stephen Church. Saturday, May 12, 1990 -- a week before a scheduled open house at the rebuilt church -- fire caused about $4 million damage to the roof and interior. The web site of the Ohio Historic Preservation Office of the Ohio Historical Society says "St. Stephen Church is both architecturally and religiously significant to Hamilton and to the Catholic Church of southwestern Ohio. It was recognized in the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith (c. 1829) as the first Catholic parish in Hamilton. (Two other Hamilton Catholic churches came from it in 1847 and 1848.) It was the third parish in the Cincinnati Catholic Archdiocese and was the second parish in the Franciscan Fathers' Cincinnati archdiocese (1847). Several pastors from St. Stephen's have contributed significantly to the church over its existence in southwestern Ohio (for instance, Rev. Thomas Boach Butler was a founder of St. Xavier College in Cincinnati). 

St. Stephen Church has always been a significant architectural landmark in Hamilton. Its Gothic steeple is still visible long before the church is visible. From its long, prosperous membership have come many prominent leaders in the community and its industries and businesses." OHPO says "although built in several stages each addition was done with such skill that the building has an unusual unity of architecture. Taken as a whole it is the best example of Gothic church architecture in the city, and is certainly a noteworthy example for all of southwestern Ohio." St. Stephen began when Protestant civic leaders wanted to attract German craftsmen to the town of about 1,600 people (including Rossville). In 1829 a 200-foot square lot was purchased at the northeast corner of North Second and Dayton streets and donated it to Bishop Edward Fenwick of the Cincinnati Archdiocese. There were only about a dozen Catholic families in Butler County at the time. A brick Gothic church was dedicated Aug. 21, 1836. The first resident pastor, the Rev. Thomas Butler, was appointed Dec. 25, 1839. A new church, the basis of the present building, was completed in 1854.

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