Preservation Iowa’s 2016 Most Endangered Buildings: St. Patrick Church (Fairfax, Linn County)
The history of St. Patrick parish in Fairfax begins in the late 1850’s. As the first Catholic families settled in the Fairfax community, they traveled to the nearest church which was in Iowa City. Later Mass was celebrated in Fairfax homes by the priest stationed at Norway, Iowa. In 1875, the first St. Patrick Church was built in Fairfax. Shortly after its completion, Fairfax received its first resident pastor, Fr. Edward O’Farrell. Construction on the present Gothic church was begun in 1911 and the corner stone was laid in June 1912. In 1916 the parish school was built. The Sisters of Mercy from Cedar Rapids ran the school teaching grade school and high school. The St. Patrick School eventually closed and St. Patrick became part of the Cedar Rapids Catholic school system
All fixtures in the church were purchased in Italy and delivered to Fairfax. The church windows have the names etched in them who contributed to buy them. The windows do have protection on the outside. With names of the families the stained glass windows are considered priceless. 300 families were members of St. Patrick’s in 2011 when the church was closed. St. John XXIII parish in Cedar Rapids has legal control of the church at present but the parish has no interest in preserving the building. Nothing has been done to the building since 2010. The church building has good bones and a 40 years roof with 30 years to go. The basement was remodeled 10 years ago which makes re-purposing the building quite attractive for community activities and social events.
The bricks are in need of tuck pointing and all wood exposed on the outside of the building is peeling and have not been painted for 10-15 years. For the last 5 years the only care of the building has been to keep the temperature up in the building to prevent damage to the plaster and the pipe organ.
St. Patrick’s has been a fixture for many generations of families.
Preservation Iowa’s Most Endangered Property program was started in 1995 and implemented to educate Iowans about the special buildings and historic sites that are slowly and gradually slipping away from us. In the past 20 years, Preservation Iowa has designated over 140 archaeological sites, churches, landscapes and a variety of other buildings.
The full list of Preservation Iowa’s 2016 Most Endangered Properties includes:
- Endangered: Troy Academy Built in 1850
- Endangered: Herring Hotel, Belle Plaine
- Endangered: Beyer Building on 4th Avenue, Grinnell
- Endangered: First Baptist Church, Grundy Center
- Endangered: Iowa State Penitentiary
- Endangered: Knutson Building
- Endangered: St. Patrick Church
- Endangered: Reimann-Schoeneman House