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Home : News : Local
5/27/2011 1:39:00 PM
Old Catholic buildings still serving
Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
Archbishop Edward Howard's former residence in Northwest Portland hosted Catholic gatherings for decades from the 1920s to the 1960s. It's now a real estate office.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
Archbishop Edward Howard's former residence in Northwest Portland hosted Catholic gatherings for decades from the 1920s to the 1960s. It's now a real estate office.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
The 1879 Bishop's House now houses a restaurant in downtown Portland.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
The 1879 Bishop's House now houses a restaurant in downtown Portland.
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The old Jesuit novitiate in Sheridan is now a school using study methods developed by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology.
Ed Langlois
Of the Catholic Sentinel

Some Catholic buildings of yesteryear are just plain gone.

In Portland, for example, the old St. Joseph Church at Northwest 15th and Couch, and the old St. Lawrence at Southwest Third and Sherman, were razed for freeways and urban renewal. In Salem, the Victorian marvel of the 1871 Sacred Heart Academy is dust.  

But dozens of old churches and schools were repurposed after being sold. A survey finds that former western Oregon Catholic institutions are being put to use for education, social services, business and even private homes.

Old churches in Lake Oswego and Dallas are now residences. Ghosts have been reported in both buildings. The old St. Philip's in Dallas reportedly has the spirit of nun residing there; she slams doors when children get noisy.  

Downtown, near Southwest Second and Stark, stands a three-story gothic building that houses Al-Amir Lebanese restaurant. But it's also labeled "Bishop's House." The Archdiocese of Oregon City purchased the lot in 1854 along with four nearby parcels to the south on which a cathedral was built in 1878. The Bishop's House was constructed a year later to house not only the archbishop, but the diocesan offices and a library.

After a new cathedral was built in Northwest Portland in 1894, the Bishop's House started hosting a diverse series of occupants, including a Chinese fellowship, the Portland Architectural Club and the Ramsey Sign Company.

The longtime residence of Archbishop Edward Howard, at Northwest 20th and Johnson, now houses a Windemere Real Estate office. The house was built in 1908 for Harvard-educated banker Abbot Low Mills, a descendant of political leaders in Brooklyn, N.Y. who had come to Oregon in 1882. In the sprawling residence, Archbishop Howard — who served 1926 to 1966 — hosted the annual Seminary Tea, a tradition now carried on elsewhere.

Queen of Peace Parish in North Portland closed in the late 1990s. A Catholic Worker house occupied the rectory for a time and then De La Salle North Catholic High moved in. The school had big building plans that got put off. The People of Praise, a Catholic charismatic group later purchased the property and plans are still in the works.  

Just a few miles away, Blessed Sacrament School, a brick building dating to 1922, is a shelter for women and children. Blessed Sacrament Church a decade ago became home to St. Irene's, a Byzantine Catholic community.  

The site of the former Assumption School in the St. Johns district of North Portland is an assisted living center with 90-year-old Assumption Church as its chapel.

On North Dekum Avenue, the 1916 St. Rose Industrial School once served girls age 12 and older who had met with trouble and led them to "culture and refinement," as the Catholic Sentinel put it in 1939. Now called Rosemont Court, the stately brick institution houses low-income seniors.  

The former gymnasium and science building from North Catholic High just off North Lombard Street are now Open Meadow Middle School, for students who have had trouble in public schools. North Catholic's main building burned in 1970 and the school never reopened.

St. Charles School in the Cully neighborhood of Northeast Portland was built in stages between 1950 and 1967 and closed in the 1980s when the Baby Boom tapered off. Now, the brick building is rented to DePaul, a substance abuse treatment center that uses the location for youth patients. The other half of the old St. Charles is a home school and sometimes used by groups like Alcoholics Anonymous.

St. Andrew School in Northeast Portland, also closed in the 1980s, has been revived as St. Andrew Nativity School, which for a decade has educated promising students who otherwise could not afford a Catholic education. For years, the school building was leased out for other purposes, including health checkups and a Waldorf preschool.  

The former Holy Child Academy on Northeast Sandy Boulevard, built in the 1920s as a girls school, is now headquarters for ministry to Southeast Asian Catholics in western Oregon. It sits between two Catholic houses of worship, St. Rose Church and Our Lady of Lavang Church.

Immaculata Academy, operated by the Dominican Sisters, once stood at 39 NE Stanton Street, now a parking lot behind Immaculate Heart Church. Nearby the site is the old Immaculate Heart School, closed in the 1980s. The low-slung brick building — with gymnasium — houses a mentoring program that follows urban youths through their education.

The Dominicans left the Immaculata site in 1956 for a sprawling campus in outer Northeast Portland, near I-84 and NE 132nd Avenue. They called the new school Marycrest. In May 1960, they hosted a campaigning John F. Kennedy, who told the girls that the nation's founders "believed in the worth of each individual."

By 1973, Marycrest closed and a chiropractic college moved onto the property. It's now called the University of Western States.  

Heading south, the St. Stephen School in the Hawthorne District of Southeast Portland is leased to Childswork, which serves children between 3 and 6, with a focus on forming conscience and compassion. The school, built after a 1931 fire, closed in 2002.   

St. Philip Neri Parish off Southeast Division Street keeps its stylish brick 1913 church as a meeting space. The old upstairs sanctuary gets rented out to a dance troupe and other organizations.

The old Ascension School on Mount Tabor houses Arthur Academy, a public charter school at which uniform-wearing students get rigorous academics.  

Across the street from Ascension, the old monastery of the Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood is a care center for elders. The contemplative order lived at the site for almost a century, arriving in 1892. At first, the monastery was drafty and cold. Three nuns became ill and died during the winter of 1901-02.  

Many former Catholic buildings outside Portland have new uses.

In Sublimity, the old parochial school is now a public middle school. The former parish school in Mount Angel is now a public school, too, but still carries the name St. Mary's.

Mission Benedict and St. Joseph Shelter in Mount Angel once were dormitories of the Benedictine Sisters' college.

The Jesuit novitiate in Sheridan, where young Jesuits were formed for decades, is now the Delphian School, a private boarding school that developed in the 1970s and uses study methods developed by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology.

In Tillamook on the coast, the 1932 stone Sacred Heart Academy is a special education primary school run by a Christian group. The site, which ceased operating as a Catholic school in the 1980s, also houses the local public education service district.  

In Harrisburg, a town of 2,000 north of Eugene, California developer Leigh Zahn has purchased the 1913 Our Lady of Victory Church. He could not be reached to answer questions about his plans for the 2,038-square-foot house of worship, which stopped having regular Masses in 1983.

Earlier, one family is pondered buying Our Lady of Victory as a house. When looking the place over, the young son ran up into the choir loft and claimed that as his bedroom.

In Roseburg, St. Joseph School — closed in 2004 — is leased out in part to Head Start, the early education project for children from low-income homes. The school also hosts a free meal for homeless and low-income people twice per week. Various groups rent out the old school gym.

The old St. Joseph still gets plenty of use by the parish, including religious education, classes for those joining the church and Spanish Bible study.

Beyond the western part of the state, in Central Oregon, the 1936 St. Francis School in Bend is now a McMenamin's pub and lodge. It includes cottages called The Nunnery, The Friary and The Parish House. The school moved to a new site a decade ago and McMenamin's renovated the old site in 2004.  

Across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Wash., and visible from I-5, a large brick school built in 1871 by the legendary Mother Joseph of the Sisters of Providence is now office space for about 60 businesses. The academy's old chapel is used for weddings.

— Bill Kunkle in Harrisburg contributed to this report.

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