Following the fire that destroyed most of downtown Jacksonville in 1901, the adjacent Riverside area grew swiftly. Soon it was home to a substantial number of Catholic families. But they had no church. There was only Immaculate Conception in downtown Jacksonville and Our Lady of the Angels in nearby Lackawanna. The Catholic families in Riverside wanted a church and a school of their own.
In 1914, these Catholic families persuaded then Bishop Michael Curley to buy property at the corner of Park and King. In 1922, a new bishop, Bishop Patrick Barry, directed his brother, Father William Barry, who was serving at Our Lady of the Angels, to organize a new parish. It was to be known as St. Paul the Apostle.
First, funds had to be raised.That brought about the formation of a Ladies Guild. The original site was considered to be inadequate and new land was bought at Forbes and Acosta streets. The cornerstone for St. Paul’s new church and school was laid on Easter Sunday of 1923.
In September, the first Mass was celebrated in the new church and the school was formally opened with an enrollment of 120 in grades one through eight. The Sisters of St. Joseph, who came to teach at the school, first lived in temporary quarters on the third floor of the school. A convent was built for them.
In June of 1924, the first students graduated from eighth grade; in November, St. Paul’s School began to teach high school classes. The parishes’ priests, who had been living at Our Lady of Angels, moved into a new rectory on Park Street on Christmas Eve of 1924. An auditorium/gymnasium was built ; and a cafeteria, kindergarten, and classroom added to it. St. Paul’s continued to grow.
In 1939, ground was broken for a new St. Paul’s Church. In 1940, the church was completed and the church/school building became exclusively a school building; as it is today.