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.
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.
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.
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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