Visitors to Topeka’s oldest and most iconic Catholic church building notice the uneven and bumpy texture of the entryway first thing as they step through the doors at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church at 227 SW Van Buren. After more than 115 years of existence, the church is embarking on an important mission to restore a structure that has been ravaged by the years and marked by preservation efforts that conceal much of the church’s splendor. Today, the Sacred Heart/St. Joseph Parish announced their plans for a four million dollar capital campaign to fund the much-needed restoration and repairs to bring St. Joseph’s back. It doesn’t take much effort to see the crumbling exterior of St. Joseph’s. Pieces of the brick, sandstone, and limestone that make up the exterior facade are literally falling off the building. The original windows are in bad shape as well, letting in moisture and the elements.
While the exterior is crumbling, on the interior, beautiful fresco paintings have been covered up by previous plaster repairs. Over the years, the electrical wiring and lighting has remained virtually untouched. In order to serve visitors and parishioners with disabilities, the church’s elevator needs to be replaced.
“The St. Joseph Catholic Church restoration project remedies failing exterior structural elements, while restoring historical handrails and stained glass windows,” said Bruce Danielson, St. Joseph’s parishioner and Restoration Chairman. “On the interior, electrical wiring and lighting, plumbing, HVAC, and the elevator will also be brought to code. Interior plaster will be repaired and replaced with painted murals and wood surfaces being brought back to original color and finish. Once we are finished, St. Joseph Catholic Church will be restored to provide a continued safe place of worship and a beautiful landmark for all Topekans.”
“Through your generous response to this campaign, we are not only honoring God, we are honoring our ancestors, who sacrificed so much to provide for us such a holy and inspirational place of worship,” said Father Tim Haberkorn, Pastor, St. Joseph Catholic Church. “It is now our responsibility as their descendants to maintain what they worked so hard to build.”
In the late 1800s, St. Joseph German Catholic Parish was organized to minister to the Germans and German-Russians who had flocked to Topeka in search of a better life. In 1898, construction began on a church at the corner of Third of Van Buren St. The church building was dedicated two years later. In 1971, St. Joseph’s was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places – one of few Topeka churches to achieve such landmark status.