In 1904, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood expressed interest in establishing a parish in Evanston, a new middle-class suburb of Cincinnati where there were over 100 Catholic families, many of Polish and German descent. Permission was granted to establish the St. Mark parish in 1905. The first services were held at the residence of Mary Klinckhamer. A temporary frame building for the church and school was soon erected on land donated by Mary. The school and church were both at capacity by 1911.
Architect Henry J. Schlacks designed a larger church for St. Mark at 3500 Montgomery Rd. It was requested that the new building be inspired by St. Marie in Trastevere and St. Marie in Cosmedio, Italy. Schlacks was the founder of the Architecture School at Notre Dame University and was the architect of Xavier University’s original campus buildings and other notable Cincinnati landmarks. Joseph G. Steinkamp & Brothers served as the associate architect
The cornerstone for the new church was laid in 1914. The new building opened in 1916 at the cost of $150,000. The exterior boasted mild brown brick with terracotta components, colored to match Roman Travertine stone, with a Verona facade and imported orange Roman tiles. The new complex also included a 130-foot campanile.
The interior included three consecrated altars built from Botticino marble. The high altar contained images of the twelve apostles, surmounted by a baldachino comprised of Breccia marble. The side altars featured Lady as Queen of Angels and Mother Hen, and St. Joseph as Scion of the House of David and Patron of the Universal Church. A mural in the sanctuary, which depicted the Lamb of God, was painted by Leo Mirabile. Several statues included Sacred Heart, St. Anne, St. Mark and St. Rose, all constructed of Carrara marble. Zettler of Munich, Germany crafted the stained glass windows. St. Mark’s sanctuary had a capacity of 850 persons, with a choir gallery and two votive chapels holding 150 persons total.
A Mission House for the Previous Blood Fathers, designed by A.M. Strauss of Fort Wayne, Indiana, was built in 1950. The house replaced the original frame church, and contained residences for the pastor and assistant pastors, the mission band, religious instruction for St. Mark’s Cathedral information center and meeting rooms for parish societies.
At St. Mark’s height in the mid-1950s, over 1,200 families worshiped regularly. The neighborhood was in decline by the 1970s as suburbs developed further out in the county. The construction of Interstate 71 in 1972, which passed adjacent to the church, led to hundreds of homes being razed, further starving St. Mark of its congregation. By the late 20th century, St. Mark had just a small congregation of mostly African-American Catholics. On 25 Jul 2010, St. Mark held its last service to a predominately African-American parish.
The Evanston Community Council is committed to acquiring St. Mark Church, to be established as a community center to benefit the neighborhood and the region. Time is running out, as weather, neglect and vandalism have taken their toll as it has sat empty for the past decade. The Cincinnati Preservation Association fully supports this effort. Please go to SaveStMark.com to learn more and make a donation.
Photos: Angie Lipscomb Photography