Tom Head, a nearly lifelong member of Holy Name Church, remembers when its convent was built in the 1930s. He recalls it clearly because he and his other classmates lost their playground when construction began.
In fact, it was his father who dealt the blow — he was charged with excavating the site for the convent’s basement.
“We had good times there,” said Head, reminiscing after he learned about plans to replace the parish’s convent, school and gym with new headquarters for Catholic Charities of Louisville. He and three dozen parishioners and alumni of the school gathered in the church basement June 23 to hear the plan.
Catholic Charities intends to build its new headquarters where the gym and school, which closed in 1992, currently stand. The two vacant buildings are situated at the corner of South Fourth Street and Heywood Avenue near Churchill Downs.
The convent, which stands next door to the school and houses some of Catholic Charities’ offices, will eventually be razed, too. The site will become the campus’ parking lot once offices open in the new building.
Holy Name Church and its rectory, which face South Third Street, will not be affected by the plans.
During the June 23 meeting with parishioners, Catholic Charities’ CEO Lisa DeJaco Crutcher discussed the charities’ 50-year history and mission on Holy Name’s campus. She said the charity wants to stay in the neighborhood and hopes to help lift it up with the $7.5 million building project.
“Catholic Charities’ presence here is meaningful to us,” she told the parishioners. “It means something to us to have a vibrant presence in this community.”
“We hope it’s a great opportunity to recommit to this neighborhood … and expand our work here for a long time to come.”
She said an architect’s review showed it’s not financially feasible to renovate the existing structures for the agency’s use. But Catholic Charities is making every effort to match the new building design to the 128-year-old campus’ look and feel, she said.
The new building will provide the parish with space for parish gatherings and meetings, DeJaco Crutcher said. It will also create a new shared parking lot that will accommodate more cars. And the headquarters will provide an outdoor playground that parish families may use.
The 30,000-square-foot building will have a mansard roof that will match the church’s roof (a faux Spanish-tile), and hidden behind the mansard will be a flat roof with solar panels, she said.
Builders intend to incorporate the buildings’ cornerstones in the new construction. And builders will try to use the limestone footers from the school to create a stone wall along Fourth Street, she said.
Several parishioners who listened to her presentation nodded and said they welcomed the plan.
Louise DeSpain, a parish member for much of her life, said “it’s a wonderful plan.”
“If they can make this come alive again, I love it,” she said.”
Pat Garr, a 1970 graduate of the school who no longer attends the church, said, “I’d like to see it saved. I’m disappointed it wasn’t taken care of,” she said, adding that she’d be interested in buying some of the old bricks as keepsakes after demolition.
Father William Bowling, who became pastor of Holy Name about a year ago, said he was told the parish couldn’t afford to keep up the buildings over the years. Several years ago, a plumbing leak flooded the school and caused structural damage.
The convent, school and gym have since been sold to the Archdiocese of Louisville and that money has helped Holy Name meet its needs, said Father Bowling.
He said the church, which has about 275 registered households, needed a new heating and cooling system, for instance.
“If we didn’t have the money from the sale of those buildings, we wouldn’t have air conditioning,” he said.
“I am super excited about this partnership with Catholic Charities — to be able to grow Catholic Charities, to be able to grow the parish and to have such a positive impact on this part of Louisville.”
Catholic Charities currently operates on two campuses — the Holy Name location and the former church, gym, friary, school and convent at the former St. Anthony Church in West Louisville. The new building will enable the charity to consolidate its offices at one site.
DeJaco Crutcher noted that after the charity filed plans with the city to begin the project, someone filed a petition to have the school and convent designated as historical landmarks.
She said that if the buildings are labeled as landmarks and demolition is prohibited, Catholic Charities will look elsewhere.