Mar 13, 2024 - News

Neighbors hope to save historic Holy Cross Church from demolition

A church

A tarp covers part of the church facade that collapsed. Photo: Arika Herron/Axios

Neighbors and historic preservationists are ringing alarm bells about the future of Holy Cross Church.

Why it matters: The century-old church is one of the city's finest examples of Italian Renaissance Revival architecture and, with its 136-foot-tall bell tower, a landmark for the neighborhood that bears its name.

The big picture: As the congregation shrank — from more than 1,000 at its height to fewer than 200 families — the Archdiocese of Indianapolis closed the church, merging it with the St. Philip Neri Parish in 2014.

Threat level: Neighbors and preservationists are afraid the church's poor condition may doom it.

  • The Holy Cross Neighborhood Association has started a petition to oppose demolition of the property and collected more than 500 signatures, according to association president Jen Higginbotham.
  • According to the group, the archdiocese has sought quotes for demolition of the church, school, rectory and gymnasium.

The latest: The archdiocese did not answer questions about the rumored demolition, but told Axios it's "in the final stages of determining the future of the Holy Cross campus."

Between the lines: Indiana Landmarks, an organization focused on preserving the state's historic buildings, has stepped in to try and save the building.

  • The organization placed the church on its annual "10 most endangered" buildings list in 2019 and 2020.
  • Mark Dollase, vice president of preservation services, said he's been in touch with the archdiocese and will soon meet with church officials to try and negotiate a different fate for the property.

The intrigue: It's not uncommon to see religious spaces transformed into event spaces, housing or even breweries.

Yes, but: Saving it could be pricey.

  • In 2019, it was estimated that repairs to the building would cost at least $2 million.
  • The cost of renovation or rehabilitation of the interior for reuse would come on top of that.

What he's saying: Dollase said several proposals that Indiana Landmarks deemed viable reuse options have been rejected by the archdiocese.

  • With the school now closed and the property largely vacated, Dollase hopes the church will seriously engage with the community in its next chapter.
  • "What we are doing is just wanting to continue the dialogue with the leadership at the archdiocese to ask, 'How can we assist you in seeing that this building is repurposed rather than being demolished?'"
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