Preservation Delaware Meets at Historic Black School

Services for Real Estate Pros with Independent architectural histor'n Delaware RS-0010115

Preservation Delaware's annual meeting was held November 7, 2009 at the historic St. Joseph's at Providence Creek School in Clayton, Delaware. Originally founded in 1896 by the Josephite Order and financed by future Saint Katherine Drexel, heir to a Philadelphia family fortune, the vision was to give a better life to black boys from inner city locations from as far away as Chicago. Students at Providence Creek School for BoysSt. Joseph's Industrial School Entry Arch

The idea was to teach the boys useful trades such as printing and machine trades and help them rise above impoverished backgrounds. Sister Katherine Drexel and her sister, Louise bought 400 acres in rural Clayton, Delaware, an area not known to be friendly territory for Catholics. The boys at this historic black school had to be walked into town two by two, in silence, during outings.

Providence Creek ChurchInterior of Providence Creek Church

Used as a school until 1972, the property with multiple brick classroom buildings and the original church, is now called St. Joseph's Center for Community Service. There are plans to work with nearby Delaware State University, an historically black university, to restore the church on the property, estimated to be a $2.3 million project.

Original Stained glass at Providence CreekEarly Photo of St. Joseph's at Providence Creek

Marc Ostroff, the Executive Director of the Center, points out one of the 2 original windows, Jesus at Gethsemane. The period photo is of the church before a drop ceiling was installed and the pews were sold off.  The Josephite Order, headquartered on Calvert St. in Baltimore, still retains some of the original elements at their headquarters.  The Center is now looking for some of the alumni and teachers, and several have been found.  Having been curious about what the inside of the church looks like after having seen it from the outside on frequent visits to the Smyrna/Clayton area, I am grateful to Preservation Delaware for opening this building for their meeting.

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Carolyn Roland, Your Historic

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Patterson-Schwartz Real Estate

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Comments (3)

Marian Pierre-Louis
Fieldstone Historic Research - Medway, MA
Metrowest Boston

Carolyn, I love your posts!  I am going to have to spend some time working my way back through them.  And I love they way you use so many great photos.  It really brings your posts alive.  -Marian

Dec 08, 2009 08:12 AM
rodney tyrone wright

I am pleased to see this blog. im a former student of st joe. (70- 72) and of the last two years have been on a desperate search for any of my former classmates. Attending st joe was a one in a lifetime experience that will remain with me for the rest of my life. I am so blesssed to have had the opportunity to have had that experience. I was passing thru around xmas of 2008. i stopped on the grounds. It was a sunday and a church service was being held. i was able to get limited access to the main building. what a spiritually uplifting experience to have walked those sacred grounds once again after so many years. i unsuccessfully tried to contact the office of providence creek (holiday time ). I proceeded on my trip and stopped in baltimore at st joseph manor. I had the opportunity to reunite with  Bro robert (former) who works in the kitchen there. Bro charles is also there however was on vacation at the time(to my dismay). continued on to dc to st joe seminary. bro thomas vincent( former principal of st joe clayton ) currently resides there. It was really great to see him.  Its a wonderful thing  providence creek is doing with the property , However i pray for success in keeping its history alive. You cant imagine how  this institute impacted the lives of many youth such as myself. That is definitely sacred grounds. a special piece of this world that God touched with his own hands and spirit. I hope other alumni will discover this blog. It will be great to reunite with them and share our memories of this very unique experience.

Jul 04, 2010 05:37 AM
Carolyn Roland- In Delaware and S. Chester County PA
Independent architectural histor'n - Wilmington, DE
Carolyn Roland, GRI, CRS

Rodney--I am so glad you found my blog on St. Joseph's at Providence Creek. It is a remarkable place and you sound like you feel fortunate to have attended school there, so indeed you were!

Jul 04, 2010 05:53 AM