Havre Daily News/Nikki Carlson
The Rev. Daniel Wathen stands Thursday in front of the St. Jude Thaddeus Church rectory. Wathen said this week’s planned demolition of the rectory, not used since 2002, will allow for improvements to off-street parking for St. Jude Thaddeus School and the church and to the school playground.
Work will start this week to end one piece of local church history and start a new chapter.
The Rev. Dan Wathen, pastor at St. Jude Thaddeus Church in Havre, said Patrick Construction workers this week will start tearing down the old rectory at 624 4th St. that housed priests from at least 1920 until 1995 and parish offices until 2002.
The tear-down of the stone-facade building, that has not been used for more than storage since the new parish center was completed in 2002, is the start of a larger project.
“We’re working on kind of beautifying, and working with issues of deferred maintenance. This is something the people have kind of had in their hearts and minds (for many years) …, ” Wathen said Friday. “This is like the first big step, is tearing that house down. ”
The plans are not complete, but include creating new off-street parking where the rectory is now and doing a major upgrade on the playground for St. Jude Thaddeus School, which now essentially doubles as the off-street parking for the school and church.
“The overall project is to expand the parking lot and also create … a bigger playground and a truer playground space for the kids, ” Wathen said, “utilize that kind of whole middle section of the block (for a playground). ”
He said the plans include finding some use for the Havre Central Building, which was finished in 1949 and opened as a Catholic high school — giving the school the name of its mascot, the ’49ers — and recently was closed due to declining enrollment.
“We’re trying to look at the needs of the community and to see if there’s a way to use that portion of the building, ” Wathen said.
“It’s too good a structure just to let it sit and fall apart, ” added Tim Maroney, pastoral minister at St. Jude’s.
Wathen said fundraising efforts, including applying for different grants to help pay for parts of the project, will continue. The parish has raised $32,000, with initial estimates of the total cost between $150,000 to $175,000, although that cost amount is likely to increase.
Maroney said the rectory was built before the church that now is used by the parish. The original St. Jude Thaddeus Church was built on the block that now houses the Hill County Courthouse.
The church later purchased the entire block that now houses the church, the school, the parish center and the rectory. The original St. Jude Thaddeus two-story brick building has a 1915 date on its cornerstone.
City records indicate that a sewer hookup was installed to the section where the rectory sits in 1915, with water connected in 1920.
The church cornerstone shows that building was completed in 1924. Maroney said that, until the church was completed, after the original St. Jude church was torn down, Mass was celebrated in the basement of the elementary school.
The rectory originally was the living quarters of the Jesuit priests assigned to the parish, with four bedrooms upstairs and two downstairs.
Maroney said the Rev. J. Patrick Stewart was the last Jesuit assigned to the parish and the last to live in the rectory. The Revs. Pat Zabrocki and Robert Grosch, who came to St. Jude’s in 1995, were the last priests to live there, that year, before the parish bought a new residence in which the priests stay.
The rectory was used for offices and storage until the new parish center — built where the convent that had housed the nuns at St. Jude’s had lived — was completed in 2002. Maroney said some material still was stored in the rectory until about two years ago.
The building sustained damage about 2003 when the pilot went out in the boiler for the hot-water heating system during a cold snap, rupturing all of the radiators in the building. It has deteriorated since then, Maroney said.
The new parking, which Maroney said also should improve the handicap-accessibility for the school and church, will extend from 4th Street through the area now occupied by the rectory to about where the access between the church and Havre Central building is now.
Wathen said the plan includes permanently closing that alley-style access.
Designs still have to be completed, although Kathryn Tilleman, development director at St. Jude’s, said part of the initial planning includes building a new basketball court, possibly full-sized, between the school and the parish center where the playground equipment now is.
Wathen said the playground equipment will be moved to the main play area, which might be planted with grass, paved over or perhaps filled with playground-style small gravel.
“I always love the idea of grass, so we’ll have to see how that goes, ” Wathen said.
How the exact design works out will depend on a variety of factors, including cost, how the power lines now above the area can be moved with the intent to bury them, and setting adequate drainage a major issue.
“It’s a complex project …, ” Wathen said. “It sounds simple, but there’s so many elements that go into it. ˘
“Drainage, too, is a huge issue … and so that’s something that we’re really going to take look at, ” Maroney added. “And I’ve got a feeling that if we want to do a really good job and alleviate that as an issue for the future that it’s going to jack the price up a little bit. ”
Wathen said the next major steps in the upgrade will be working on the engineering and applying for grants and holding fundraisers, with the students at the parochial school likely to be involved in that.
Completion of the project will depend on how long it takes to do the engineering and to raise the funds, Wathen said.
“I would foresee, at the latest, hopefully no longer than a three-year (time frame), ” he said.
“I would hope it would not be that long, ” Maroney added.