St. Stephen
Saint Stephen's Roman Catholic Church, Original Plan

St. Stephen
Saint Stephen's Roman Catholic Church, 1908

St. Stephen
St. Stephen's, 1950s

Demolition of Saint Stephen
Demolition of Saint Stephen's Church, 1959

St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Church (3)

Pennsylvania Avenue and 25th Street, NW
Constructed from 1866-68, demolished in 1959

The St. Stephen's community began as a branch of St. Matthew's Catholic Church on 15th and H Streets, NW. In response to the war-time increase in the impoverished population in the west end of Washington, the pastor of St. Matthew's, Reverend Dr. Charles I. White, had proposed to build a new church on Pennsylvania Avenue. In July 1867, Archbishop Martin Spalding designated St. Stephen's as a separate parish.

In 1866, Father White chose Adolf Cluss and Josef Kammerhueber to design this new church, knowing of their work for Foundry and Calvary churches. Archbishop Spalding may have also known of their design for the Concordia Opera House in Baltimore.

Archbishop Spalding proposed a "plain two-story building". With a two-story design, a large church could be built for the smallest investment in land and building materials. Though Catholic tradition had favored basilican or gothic designs, the interior plan of St. Stephen's did not differ significantly from the architects' Baptist and Methodist churches based on the American Protestant auditorium church with prominent Sunday school classroom space.

Ornamentation at St. Stephen's was also similar to Cluss's previous churches. An eyewitness described the church at the time of its completion in 1868: "It contains a large basement entirely above ground, fitted up as a chapel and for Sunday school purposes. The sanctuary is semi-circular and tastefully frescoed. The ceiling [is] filled with open carved work." A newspaper praised the building, noting that its architect "is well known among the citizens for his science."

On the exterior, Adolf Cluss and Josef Kammerhueber designed St. Stephen's Church in 1866 in a Byzantine style. The original church plan had a tall rounded belfry rising from a square tower. Because of the parish's limited resources, the top third of the tower was never completed, but it was modified to accommodate a church bell.

Located at Pennsylvania Avenue and 25th Street, the building survived until 1959. It was replaced by the present Saint Stephen's Martyr Roman Catholic Church in 1961.




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