You are invited to take a fresh look at the hundred-year-old church you enter to worship and at the history of its parish and community.
Saint Gabriel Catholic Church History
In 1851 a Glendale Association was formed to develop a residential community to appeal to families wishing to move out of rapidly expanding Cincinnati. The extension of a railroad to Hamilton made commuting by rail from downtown Cincinnati possible. The group’s motto was “One hour from the time man puts on his hat in his own front hall to his office in Cincinnati”. The Many Catholics who settled in the expanding village, homeowners and workers alike, had to attend services in Reading at SS. Peter and Paul. There was no Catholic church in the village. Occasionally, priest from SS. Peter and Paul would come to Glendale to celebrate Mass.
It could be said that St. Gabriel parish began in the Willow Avenue home of Michael Dooley. After a time a rented building at the intersection of Oak and Congress served as a temporary church. As the congregation grew, Reverend John Albrinck, pastor of SS. Peter and Paul began the work of building a Catholic church on Church Street in Glendale. The cornerstone for a church building on Church Street was laid in 1859 by Bishop Purcell and the building finished the same year.
In 1862, Reverend William Corey, the first resident pastor, added the sisters’ house and school and a parochial residence. In June 1880, a cyclone unroofed the church and house. Several pastors worked to pay the debts and finance a new church—the present St. Gabriel church building.
The Church Building
On May 27, 1906, the cornerstone of the present church was laid. A Church dedication history written at the time said “built for God, not for man” and credited its completion to contributors “not by thousands of the rich, but by the hard earned dollars and cents of the loyal Catholics of Glendale”. Many non-Catholics also donated. Officiating at the placing of the cornerstone was Archbishop Henry Moeller, assisted by the pastor, Reverend Robert C. Connor. Approximately 30 priests from the archdiocese were among the thousand who attended the ceremony. Music was provided by the Glendale Military Band. Just one year elapsed between the laying of the cornerstone and the dedication on Sunday, May 26, 1907.
The blessing of the bells was a big event, remembered for years by the children who grew up in the parish. The bells were set up in large wooden cases next to the church by the corner. If one placed a donation in a basket, he or she was permitted to ring the bell. Though the children were most interested, most lacked the money to win the privilege. After the Archbishop blessed the bells, they were raised into the tower. In 2004, the parish again had the opportunity to see the bells as they were taken down for work.
In 1919, a fire destroyed the original church which was then being used for schoolrooms. Reverend William Welch, pastor from the 1933-42 renovated the 1907 church interior. For the 125th anniversary of the parish, Reverend Charles Kovermann, pastor, launched a renovation drive for the Church. In 2000, the Archdiocese requested an inventory of parishes which gave an opportunity to take a new look at this church which stands at the corner of Church and Sharon. Its architecture has been variously described as “Roman Nouveau” and “American Picturesque”.
The building is a warm tan sandstone with red tile roof [recently repaired]. The original cement and plastic work was done by William C. Bunyan. An Octagonal wing housing the baptistery is on the east front and a square crenellated bell tower is on the west. Four narrow arches above the main door are echoed in the sides of the baptistery. The side walls are buttressed and decorated by arched stain glass windows. The rear wall features a circular “rose” window and a smaller sacristy window. Entering the narthex [vestibule] you will find a carved wooden holy water font, the work of Joseph Otman, donated in 1998 in memory of Peter Joseph who grew up in the parish. The Plaster of Paris “angel” font is the original from 1907. All plaster work in the church was from M. Akman, a Church Goods store in Cincinnati in the early nineteenth century. Leo Mahsling, longtime member of St. Gabriel, created the shelves for the missal designed to match the woodwork on the oak pews inside the nave. Mr.. Mahsling also built the baptismal font in 1998.
Through renovation and improvement, the basics of St. Gabriel Church have remained the same. The barrel- vaulted ceiling, now faux marbleized in cream, are divided into squares by white beams. The stained glass windows that light the side wall were refurbished in 1983 to restore them to the original brilliance. The plaster stations of the cross have lined the walls since the dedication. In 1942 an old organ was replaced, by the gift of Mr. and Mrs. John Busam. In 2005, that instrument was replaced by the new pipe organ, which now adds so much to our worship ceremonies.
On the arch above the sanctuary, in gold letters on blue are the words in Latin “The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary”, referring to Gabriel, the archangel to whom the parish is dedicated. After Vatican II, the original altar was turned and moved forward. With the 125th Anniversary renovation three arches were added behind the altar to add intimacy to the sanctuary. The cross on the central arch was added in 1996; it is by Wesselers Woerbending. The top of the old altar became the Gospel podium and the communion rail was taken away to serve partially in the alcoves for statues in the rear of church. The sanctuary lamp is original to the first church. Side alters dedicated to Mary and Joseph echo the design of the main altar and have changed little since 1907. Painted on the ceiling edges are bands depicting different church symbols referring to the Church, Trinity and others.
As you enter St. Gabriel church, the slightly sloping aisle leads you down to the altar. A friendly light from the sanctuary lamp invites you to join with parish members in celebration of the Mass in this church which has grown and strengthened through the years.