A small church on the corner of Chestnut Street and Shelby Street has been sitting wounded from this year’s windstorm and in need of repair. A decorative brick element has toppled over onto the sidewalk, its bricks still strewn about the base of the building. This is one of our favorite churches in town as it is small but grand, proudly occupying its corner site. Its austere detailing and multi-colored slate roof help define the Phoenix Hill neighborhood.
The building sits next door to the Cloister Apartments and was once part of the complex that housed the Ursuline Academy of the Immaculate Conception, serving as its convent. According to the Encyclopedia of Louisville, the building along with the Cloister were refurbished in the late 1970s when it housed a gourmet restaurant called Raposo’s. The restaurant closed in 1980 and the next year, the Louisville School of Art moved in. Upon merging with the University of Louisville in 1983, the building was again vacant.
Six years later, Temple Beth Shalom began meeting in the building, which perhaps explains the Star of David on the building’s steeple. The same year, a fire tore through the structure, destroying several 19th century murals by artist Johann Schmitt painted between 1868 and 1872. Schmitt was born in southwest Germany in 1825 and was trained as an artist in Munich. He painted throughout the midwest, including other churches in Louisville. The congregation apparently still meets in the building’s basement.
The brick on much of the building is now in need of tuck pointing, probably the reason for the damage in the first place. The Jefferson County PVA lists the structure’s owner as Child of the King Ministries, but we’ve never seen any activity going on at the building. The building appears to be in sound shape, but needs quite a bit of repair, especially to the roof and steeple. Hopefully this building can one day rise from the ashes of its 20 year old fire (it’s in Phoenix Hill, after all), and become a neighborhood landmark once again.
- Cloister Apartments Trading Slate For Asphalt (Broken Sidewalk)
- Covington Biographies: Johann Schmitt (Kenton Co. Library)