Nestled in Lower Price Hill, one of Cincinnatis oldest churches has become a haven for the neighborhoods 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. Marys 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 Womens 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 its 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