A Short History of St. Paul’s Parish
The 1920’s were a good time for St. Paul’s Parish – it was the time of beginning. Started as a mission of the Our Lady of the Angels Church in Lackawanna, the Catholic community in the area grew enough to support its own parish.
In 1922, 250 people petitioned the Bishop of St. Augustine, Rt. Rev. Patrick Barry, to form a new parish in the Riverside section of Jacksonville. The petition was granted and Father William Barry became the first Pastor. Land was acquired at the corner of Forbes and Acosta Streets and a church-school building was built. Father Barry said the first Mass in the building on September 16, 1923; Bishop Barry dedicated the building on November 25, 1923.
The church-school building provided 3 floors for the parishioners – the 1st floor was the church seating 700 persons, the 2nd floor served the school (grades 1 through 7) and the 3rd floor was used as a parish hall and temporary housing for the Sisters of St. Joseph.
In 1924, high school grades were added to the school. Also that year, the rectory was completed for the priests to move into on Christmas eve. Shortly thereafter, the building of the 2-story brick convent and auditorium took place.
As elsewhere in the country, the Depression Years were rough on the parishioners of St. Paul’s; however, they wanted a Church so they persevered. Funds were raised and plans were made. In 1939 ground was broken for the Church we know and love today. The new $100,000 Church, built in the Mediterranean Revival style with sun-bleached yellow bricks and Ludowici roof tiles, was opened on Easter, March 24, 1940 with the Rt. Rev Monsignor D. A. Lyons, pastor, presiding over the Solemn High Mass.
The architect was Gerald Barry of Chicago, the supervisory architect was John Reynolds of Jacksonville and the contractor was A. L. Clayton of Jacksonville. The Rambusch Firm of New York was in charge of the paintings and the stain glass windows design with Hugo Ohlms of New York as the muralist.
The Church, built to seat 900 persons, did not originally contain the stained glass windows, the Stations of the Cross, and the beautiful paintings. The two yellow windows near the confessionals are the only original windows remaining as the Rambusch stain glass windows were added later, in 1941. Originally, also, one would have walked into a church with a terrazzo floor.
The parish made it through the Great Depression and World War II. In 1952 the high school was closed when Bishop Kenny High School opened.
Over the years other adjacent properties were bought to create the 3.5 acre campus we have today.
Fast forwarding to the 21st century, many renovations have been completed. During 2004-2005, the Convent was changed to a media center for the school. The first floor was converted to a Library and a media room with computers for the students. In 2008, the convent chapel was renovated and dedicated on 8 Dec 2008. Just a few of the many jobs that were completed were: installed the carpet, repaired the wiring, patched and painted the walls, restored and finished the altar and altar railings, restored the painting behind the altar, built the beautiful new tabernacle, and adding the faux “stain glass” windows. In 2012, the second floor was redone to accommodate the Tribual Office.
The school windows were restored during 2006 at a total cost of $94,000. The windows were removed and sent to Terry Hayes in Monticello, Florida to be carefully restored and then placed back into position.
Since then many additional repairs and improvements were made to the parish campus: Church bathrooms gutted and redone; roofs repaired/replaced on all buildings; auditorium painted, lighting updated, handicap bathroom installed, etc.; rectory revamped from top to bottom; gift shop moved into a new space (twice); cafeteria repainted and a French drain installed; school hallways were retiled and painted, ceilings repaired/replaced, etc.; relocated/fixed air condition units and much, much more.
Our most recent renovations include replacement of lighting in the church, installation of spotlights for each of the Stations of the Cross, removal of carpeting from the sanctuary, and replacement of flooring in the choir loft.
St. Joseph, Patron Saint of workers, pray for us and
bless our continued restoration efforts.
Pastors of St. Paul’s Parish