Church of the Immaculate Conception (‘Old St. Mary’s’)

Church_of the_Immaculate_ConceptionThe Church of the Immaculate Conception, a Catholic parish church that stood at the northeast corner of Seventh and Monroe streets from 1858 until 1952, should not be confused with the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which became the episcopal seat of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois in 1928.

The Rev. James Fitzgibbon, the original parish pastor, oversaw construction of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which was dedicated on April 3, 1859. Immaculate Conception Parish originally was considered to be the Irish parish; Springfield’s German Catholics, who made up most of the rest of the area’s Catholics, worshiped at St. John the Baptist Church and later at Ss. Peter and Paul’s.

Pastors of Immaculate Conception Parish were: Fitzgibbon, until 1864; Fathers Zabel and Sticks, 1864; the Rev. Joseph Costa, 1864-65; the Rev. Louis Hinssen, 1865-68; the Rev. John O’Sullivan, 1868-69; the Rev. Patrick Brady, 1869-89; Msgr. Timothy Hickey, 1889-1924; the Rev. William Sullivan, 1924-27; the Rev. George Faller (administrator), 1927; and the Rev. Louis Hufker, 1927-28.

Father Fitzgibbons built a two-room school for boys (girls went to St. Angela School at Sixth and Mason streets). Father Hinssen converted the old St. John the Baptist Church into Immaculate Conception’s own girls’ school. Father Brady lengthened the church building by 20 feet in 1870 and built a two-story parish school in 1876 (though boys and girls still attended separate classes).  And Msgr. Hickey built a new priests’ home and a convent for the Dominican nuns who staffed the school. He also eliminated gender-segregated classes in 1890.

Over the years, Immaculate Conception Church became known colloquially as “Old St. Mary’s.”

When the Springfield diocese was created in 1923, the Church of the Immaculate Conception became the temporary diocesan cathedral. The final Mass was said at the church on Oct. 14, 1928 – the day the new Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was dedicated at Sixth Street and Lawrence Avenue.

“Old St. Mary’s” church was decommissioned and converted first to a high school  (Cathedral Boys High School) and then was used as offices for various Catholic organizations. Both the church and school were demolished for off-street parking in 1952.

In recognition of his 35 years as pastor of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Msgr. Hickey is interred in a crypt in the new cathedral.

Note: This entry has been updated to correct the date when the church at Seventh and Monroe was demolished and to provide additional information on the building’s later uses.

Source: The web site of the Diocese of Springfield in Illlinoisbridge

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.

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10 Responses to Church of the Immaculate Conception (‘Old St. Mary’s’)

  1. E. Fred Elledge says:

    I am searching for the wedding site of Michael Ryan & Bridget O”Brien married on July 23, 1855 somewhere in Sangamon County. He was working as a coal miner & they were from Ireland a few years earlier. Thank you for any information.

  2. frank weitzel says:

    father Fitzgibbon married Robert giblin and eliza carr at old st Mary’s in 1860 . my gr-gr-gr- grandparents.

  3. Bob says:

    The school also was known as old st Mary’s. In my youth I knew my grandma’s running buddy, Agnes mcginley who attended that school. Her father was giblen, it was her maiden name. And the precursor to cathedral high school was there. High school classes were held there for a short time til they got cathedral hs going.

  4. frank c weitzel says:

    johann “john” bretz was brought in from frankfort kentucky , as a contractor to build the church . he built the catholic church in frankfort plus the capitol hotel and the state armory . he was also a contractor on the first state armory in springfield . john bretz was my great grandfather august weitzel’s uncle . and responsible for our family coming to springfield.

    • Riley Finney says:

      Small world. Johann Bretz is my great great great great grandfather. His great grandson John Bretz was a priest, who oversaw the construction of Christ the King parish here in town, as well as its first pastor.

  5. Jim says:

    Vachel Lindsay wrote a lovely poem about this church, “In the Immaulate Conception Church,” and made a beautiful drawing to go with it.

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