Site 2: Original Saint Ann Church
Saint Ann was formally recognized as a parish of the Diocese of Richmond on September 25, 1947. It was carved out of portions of Sts. James, Charles, Agnes, and Thomas More parishes. Parishioners swiftly started fundraising to build a parish church. Their first effort began earlier that August when they held a “Lawn Fete” on the empty lot at 10th St. N. and N. Frederick St. The event included the raffle of a shiny new Plymouth and raised $7,000 (equivalent to $90,773 today) for the building fund.
New Plymouth sedan raffled at fundraising “Lawn Fete”, August 1947.
The building was designed with a main nave and the St. Joseph’s Wing which would serve as a parish hall as well as worship space.
By early Spring of 1948, the shell of handmade Williamsburg brick was nearly complete. The original church cornerstone was laid on June 27, 1948, followed immediately by the bishop’s blessing of the main altar site. A buffet luncheon was served on the rectory lawn after the ceremony.
Aerial view of completed church, main entrance to right, St. Joseph’s Wing in foreground. Note: white house at center top was subsequently purchased in 1953 to become second rectory.
Laying of the cornerstone by Bishop Peter L. Ireton, June 27, 1948 (scroll further for additional picture of altar blessing).
A wedding mass had been held three weeks earlier in the not-yet-completed sanctuary.
First Saint Ann wedding, newlyweds Charles Larmer and Sarah Slieglitz leave the unfinished church, June 7, 1948.
As construction continued through that summer, Masses were said in the St. Joseph’s wing. A solemn blessing of the church was held in the Fall, and the first Masses were celebrated in the church proper on October 17, 1948.
Solemn blessing of the church with Knights of Columbus Honor Guard seated at end of each pew, Fall 1948.
The main nave was dedicated on May 1, 1949. The interior had beautiful, high ceilings, impressive stone columns, and an altar that provided a reverent space for the celebration of the Eucharist.
Completed church viewed from corner of N. Frederick and 10th N. Streets, main entrance to right, St. Joseph’s Wing to left.
As the parish continued to grow, some Masses became standing room only. In 1959, the St. Mary’s wing was added to increase seating capacity to 750.
New pews were installed in July 1960. In 1966, enthusiastic parishioners raised funds to add air conditioning to the church. Before then, during hot, muggy summers, our priests could celebrate Mass in twenty minutes in Latin!
Vatican II brought many changes to the Catholic Church including to the liturgy. These were incorporated into our Masses and our sanctuary. Some physical changes can be seen by comparing the altar in the following pictures from 1948 and 1985 (note placement of altar, altar rail, image of the Lord).
Bishop Peter Ireton blessing the altar, June 27, 1948. Note rear facing altar, altar rail, traditional crucifix.
Post-Vatican II Sanctuary, seen at marriage of Catherine Morper and Gregory Steigerwald, 1985. Note front-facing altar, no rail, Risen Lord above altar.
Demolition of original church building, 2003.
Saint Ann Church continued to offer a place for spiritual and community comfort and growth in our old church for over three more decades. The old church was torn down in 2003, making way for our new building. Some familiar furnishings from the original church found their way into our new spaces as you will see in later stops on our History Walk.
During 57 years of parish life in our original church, thousands of Masses were offered and Sacraments conferred on our parish families. Memories of these will always be close to our hearts!