April 05, 2019

One of Cincinnati's Oldest Standing Churches is Now a Gorgeous Community Hub and Event Center

Nestled in Lower Price Hill, one of Cincinnati’s oldest churches has become a haven for the neighborhood’s residents and a number of nonprofit groups. St. Michael the Archangel opened in 1848, making it the second-oldest surviving Catholic Church in Cincinnati after Old St. Mary’s in Over-the-Rhine. Originally, 47 residents living along the Ohio River chipped in money to buy the plots of land the church now occupies. Over its 170-year history, St. Michael has welcomed German immigrants, Appalachian migrants and generations of Price Hill families. The church closed its doors in 1998, but a decade later it, the neighboring St. Michael School built in 1905 and surrounding buildings became the home for Education Matters, a grassroots neighborhood nonprofit that started as the Lower Price Hill Community School in 1971. The nonprofit took ownership of the complex in 2014, and the next year, the church and school underwent a $10 million renovation funded by $2.2 million raised by the nonprofit as well as investment attracted via tax credits. Today, Education Matters conducts English language instruction for immigrants and refugees, GED and college preparatory work and other services in the historic school building. Community Matters, its sister organization launched in 2014, operates the church building. Several other nonprofits, including Cincy Stories, RISE and Wordplay rent space there, and it is also the official rehearsal space for MUSE Women’s Choir. Community Matters, which is focused on programs that provide economic opportunity and neighborhood revitalization, also rents out the sanctuary space for weddings and other celebrations. Residents of Lower Price Hill are welcome to use the sanctuary free of charge, and the proceeds from other events feed back into Community Matters’ mission That mission takes a number of shapes. Last year, the group launched the Washing Well, a neighborhood Laundromat. More recently, Community Matters announced a partnership with Over-the-Rhine Community Housing that will bring 60 units of affordable housing to Lower Price Hill. Though it’s no longer a place of worship, the spirit of community that brought early Cincinnati residents together to build St. Michaels lives on in the organizations that now call it home.
Photos by Nick Swartsell
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Construction on St. Michael the Archangel church in Lower Price Hill started in 1847, and the sanctuary was open for parishioners in 1848.
Nick Swartsell
Construction on St. Michael the Archangel church in Lower Price Hill started in 1847, and the sanctuary was open for parishioners in 1848.
Community Matters offers the sanctuary of St. Michael's church as an event space, with proceeds going to the group's mission of neighborhood revitalization and providing economic opportunities.
Nick Swartsell
Community Matters offers the sanctuary of St. Michael's church as an event space, with proceeds going to the group's mission of neighborhood revitalization and providing economic opportunities.
The church features a number of stunning stained glass windows, some containing the names of prominent families from the community.
Nick Swartsell
The church features a number of stunning stained glass windows, some containing the names of prominent families from the community.
While St. Michael's sanctuary is freshly renovated, a climb up into the church's bell tower reveals its historic bones.
Nick Swartsell
While St. Michael's sanctuary is freshly renovated, a climb up into the church's bell tower reveals its historic bones.
The church's soaring bell tower offers sweeping views of downtown, Lower Price Hill, Queensgate and the West End.
Nick Swartsell
The church's soaring bell tower offers sweeping views of downtown, Lower Price Hill, Queensgate and the West End.
The church sanctuary is home to a number of nonprofits, including local video documentary nonprofit Cincy Stories' comfy, inviting office.
Nick Swartsell
The church sanctuary is home to a number of nonprofits, including local video documentary nonprofit Cincy Stories' comfy, inviting office.
Lower Price Hill has long been home to Cincinnatians who trace their roots back to Appalachia. Community Matters has a library of material related to Urban Appalachians in Cincinnati.
Nick Swartsell
Lower Price Hill has long been home to Cincinnatians who trace their roots back to Appalachia. Community Matters has a library of material related to Urban Appalachians in Cincinnati.
A $10 million renovation in 2015 preserved breath-taking details in the church's interior, such as this beautiful ceiling work.
Nick Swartsell
A $10 million renovation in 2015 preserved breath-taking details in the church's interior, such as this beautiful ceiling work.
A $10 million renovation in 2015 preserved breath-taking details in the church's interior, such as this beautiful ceiling work.
Nick Swartsell
A $10 million renovation in 2015 preserved breath-taking details in the church's interior, such as this beautiful ceiling work.
Among the church's more whimsical details are its spiral staircases leading from the sanctuary to a second-story loft.
Nick Swartsell
Among the church's more whimsical details are its spiral staircases leading from the sanctuary to a second-story loft.