By the end of the nineteenth century almost every Catholic church in the region had a complimenting parochial school. These schools – controlled and operated by the church – infused religious teachings with a standard grammar school lexicon. Usually limited in scope to primary education (though some larger parishes did operate High Schools as well) such parochial schools usually served as incubators for children of a specific cultural background, and often segregated those children by heritage. While the public school system would mix the Italians, Croatians, Finns, and Germans; these parish run schools would keep those groups strictly separated. St. Ignatius, however, happened to be Houghton’s only Catholic Church, and as such its parish was of a more diverse population. A condition that would naturally follow to its school as well.
The St. Ignatius school was first established in 1887, housed in a small wood framed building adjacent to the church’s original frame parish. Originally the school operated through tuition fees, but such fees hampered enrollment and were abolished by 1896. Now essentially a free institution, the school’s enrollment skyrocketed and by the turn of the century it became clear that a new larger building was in order. Finally in 1913 enough funds had been raised for the construction of a new school, and a large three story brick and sandstone building was erected on Albion Street (now Houghton Ave) – across from the equally large and new sandstone building that now housed the church.
Today the school continues to stand, though its days educating Houghton’s catholic youth are long over. The school closed down after the 1970-71 school year. I have no clue as to what the building is used for now, or even if its still under the ownership of the neighboring church. I’d be surprised if it hadn’t been converted into apartments at some point in its life, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of that now.
The building’s most impressive feature is its grand main entrance facing Houghton Ave, an entrance embellished with a pair of large sandstone columns and entablature graced with the school’s name. Within that grand opening is a large main doorway topped by a brick arch. Originally this entire arched opening would have been just that – open – but at some point later in its life it was filled in with the aluminum clad doors and brick infill seen here to create a airlock entrance. While the addition greatly hampers the entrance’s grand appeal, the glass block cross inlay in the arch is a nice touch.
Here’s another look at those columns and entablature. An interesting classical element, considering the church across the street is more gothically inspired.
The base of each column feature a rather large sandstone footing that seems to be revealing its Jacobsville roots.
Speaking of those sandstone details, the building’s entire foundation is built from a rough faced collection of said stone, laid beautifully in a un-coursed ashlar fashion. That beadwork between the stones is in remarkably good shape, and betrays a long history of upkeep and maintenance to the building. Someone is definitely taking care of the old gal.
The building’s cornerstone is in equally good shape, engraved into a large piece of smooth faced sandstone a good six feet up from the ground.
Above the building’s sandstone foundation sits two stories clad in a dark brick. These floors are populated by a series of small equally spaced windows, with a small sandstone capital atop the corner pier being the only noticeable embellishment.
That’s not to say the building doesn’t feature some opulent grace, as it does sport a rather impressive bracketed cornice hanging over its crown. A cornice that appears to be made of some type of copper bearing material, considering its oxidized appearance.
Back down at ground level, the extreme slope of the terrain has created a walk out basement on the ground floor facing neighboring Ripley street. A great deal of windows line this facades which give me the impression that the floor housed a gym or perhaps a cafeteria. The glass block also seems to suggest that, as a classroom here wouldn’t be graced with such a window treatment I would think.
Making my way to the back of the building I find this impressive fire escape hanging off the back facade. A interesting feature which gives the back alley a big city air. Also interesting to note here is the lower quality brick used on this wall.
At this point I started to get some odd looks from a man apparently working on on the back of the building, who was probably wondering why I was taking so many pictures around him. So I called it quits and headed down the road to record more Houghton landmarks. But at least I was able to record one of its less known landmarks, still standing a century after it was built.