The former St. Anthony of Padua Church has been a lot of things over the years, including a kindergarten center, a book depository, a warehouse and a carpentry shop. Now though, the building is empty and the St. Charles Parish School Board will have to decide what future, if any, the old church has.
The board has moved the schools’ woodworking shop out of the former church and into its new maintenance facility, which was built in July. That decision, along with an engineering survey by Civil and Environmental Consulting Engineers that found the building was in bad shape, has left the board with a big decision on what to do with the old church.
“After all major hurricanes, we do an assessment of all the schools’ facilities,” John Rome, the school system’s physical plant services administrator, said. “An engineering survey after Hurricane Gustav called into question the building’s structural soundness.”
Rome says that mold and mildew are present in the former church and that part of the foundation is decaying.
“There is also some asbestos in the building’s tile,” he said.
The former church is located on Ellington Street, across from the site of the old Luling Elementary School. Because the elementary school was running out of room to house students and supplies, the School Board purchased St. Anthony of Padua Church in 1974. The former church was first used to house the elementary school’s kindergarten students. Then it was used as a book depository and warehouse, and finally as a woodworking shop.
In its vacant state, Rome says that renovating the building would cost more than replacing it.
Marilyn Richoux, president of the St. Charles Museum and Historical Association, says that she would love to see the building saved. She says that the mission of the association is to preserve the history and tradition of St. Charles Parish for future generations.
“The St. Anthony of Padua Church is one of the last historically significant structures remaining in the historic Luling community,” she said. “The association hopes that this church will be saved.”
In a letter to the Herald-Guide, retired St. Charles Parish art teacher Lloyd Sensat says that the former church’s architectural style also makes it unique.
“The Spanish Colonial Revival style of architecture was in vogue from the 1920’s to the 1940’s,” he wrote. “This style used as its models the missions and houses built by the Spanish colonist in Southwest America.”
St. Anthony of Padua is a rare example of this style.
School Board Member John “Jay” Robichaux understands the sentimental value of the old church, but says that the school district just can’t afford to preserve it.
“I would love for it to stay and be preserved, but we can’t afford to keep it, especially after the engineering survey found that employees shouldn’t even work in the building,” he said. “The best thing would be for someone to buy it from us to keep it preserved.”
The former St. Anthony of Padua Church’s roots stretch back to 1877, when Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary was built that year to serve residents on the West Bank. Mission chapels were then erected in Luling, Ama and Des Allemands.
In 1902, Luling residents began to attend mass in a frame building off of what is now called Easy Street. In 1926, the frame building on Easy Street was replaced with a sturdier structure on Ellington Street. The church was still a mission of Holy Rosary until July 1, 1961 when Fr. Gerald Barrett was appointed the first pastor of the newly created parish of St. Anthony of Padua.
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