Holy Cross Church and School Complex
Holy Cross Church and School Complex in the Latonia neighborhood is a historic church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington at 3612 Church Street in Covington, Kentucky. The campus straddles Church Street with the sanctuary and rectory on the east side, and elementary school, high school, and convent on the west. The church was constructed between 1906 and 1908 with the elementary school added in 1914, rectory in 1924, the high school in 1930 and the convent in 1941. The complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
In the late 19th century, the town of Milldale was a sparsely populated, rural community, just south of the city of Covington, Kentucky. The first settlers, with the exception of a few Irish, were German Catholic immigrants. These Catholic families in the community, without a church to call their own, formed the southern most part of St. Augustine Parish in the adjacent Peaselburg neighborhood nearby. Travel from the Milldale area to St. Augustine proved difficult. Residents eventually sought help in finding a more convenient place for worship.
In 1887, the parishioners from Milldale held a successful drive to solicit subscriptions for their own church and school. They were denied their request by then Bishop of Covington, Camillus Paul Maes due to financial difficulties at St. Augustine, but by 1889, the parish had recovered from their financial difficulties. Bishop Maes then granted approval for the new parish.
Rev. Paul Ablen, pastor of St. Augustine, was tasked to organize the new congregation. After much discussion, Bishop Maes decided that the lots near the intersection of the Kentucky Central and the Louisville and Nashville Railroads would best suit the needs for the parish.
Construction of the first church began August 24, 1890. The structure was completed in March 1891 on the west side of Church Street (then known as Longworth Street). On the Feast of the Holy Cross, 3 May, 1891, Bishop Maes officially dedicated the new structure as Holy Cross Catholic Church, in honor of the feast day.
After Milldale was incorporated as the city of Latonia in 1896, the congregation was already outgrowing the facilities, and the parish began to acquire additional land for a new building. The church and parish school was staffed by the Sisters of St. Benedict. The congregation was led by the Rev. John R. Reiter, who had begun his 34 year pastorate in 1898.
The size of the church and school proved inadequate by 1903, and the decision was made to build a new church rather than add to the old one. The result would be a large stone church located across the street from the original building. Construction of the current sanctuary began July 16, 1906, and it was dedicated November 29, 1908. For a time, the old church served as the school, but in 1915 a modern 12-room building was constructed at a cost of $36,000.
In 1924, the current rectory was built next to the church to accommodate the pastor and his assistants. In the same year, the original altar was replaced by the current altar, made of white marble, flanked on both sides by angels, the communion rail was installed, and the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph altar replaced. In 1930, parishioners built the present high school building on the site of the original church. This building still serves as the main school building today.
In June 1932, Father Louis Fey was appointed fifth pastor of Holy Cross. Father Fey and the congregation built a convent on the southwest corner of Southern and Church Streets to accommodate the Benedictines. They also redecorated the interior of the church. The murals were refinished, the ceiling design was hand-painted in gold, and imported marble arches were installed behind the two side altars. Also, new stained-glass windows, imported from Belgium, France, Germany and England, replaced the original ones, and the central window behind the main altar was installed after cutting the area out of stone.
Father Fey died in 1955, and the Rev. Thomas B. Finn, became the new pastor of Holy Cross. While pastor, Father Finn saw the need for an additional building to accommodate more students. The post World War II baby boom led to the construction of the Thomas B. Finn building, in 1964, at the corner of 36th and Church Streets. The two-story, split-level type building was complete with a large gymnasium, locker rooms with showers, biology and language labs, classrooms and a huge lower level recreation hall. In athletics, the school mascot became the Indians, and the school colors red and black. In 1965, George Schneider guided the high school basketball team to the Kentucky State Finals.
The 1970’s and 1980’s were hard times for the parish. The convent, devoid of new nuns, was given to the local Catholic Social Services organization as their headquarters. Due to declining enrollment, the school faced closure. Holy Cross was made a diocesan district school, and was merged with many other local Catholic High Schools in order to survive. In 1990, the parish celebrated its centennial with renovations. The baptismal font located in an alcove in the vestibule was moved to the front of the church and a modern rest room equipped for the handicapped was installed in its place. The confessional beneath the St. Helen window was removed and an elevated choir loft was constructed.
On the morning of March 25, 1990, an electrical fire destroyed the interior of the church. The fire began in the attic causing $400,000 of damage to the interior, and prohibited use of the recently renovated church for several months. Quickly reconstructed, the first mass held in the renovated church was on July 28, 1990. On August 7, of the same year, the parish celebrated its centennial.
The Holy Cross Church and School Complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. In 2011, the Indians football team defeated Glasgow 33-14 to win the Kentucky Class 2A state title under head coach Bruce Kozerski.
More recently, the Holy Cross Girls Basketball team, coached by Kes Murphy, won the 2015 Kentucky State Girls Basketball Tournament against Allen County-Scottsville, 35-32, at Western Kentucky University’s E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Kentucky.