St. Gabriels Parish at 122 S. Wyoming Street, Hazleton, PA 18201 US - About UsAbout Us
In the early nineteenth century, Hazleton was a small village of several houses and an inn servicing the needs of travelers at the intersection of two roads. With the discovery of coal in 1826 and the corresponding development of transportation systems necessary to transport coal to the market, the town grew rapidly, especially in the latter decades of the nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries. Immigrants accounted for most of the population growth and many were Catholics, first from Ireland and Germany, to be followed later by thousands from Southeastern Europe. As the numbers of Catholics grew, the need to establish a parish became obvious. Saint Gabriel’s Roman Catholic Parish developed on it’s present site in the mid-nineteenth century in response to the growth of the Catholic population in Hazleton when in 1856 a small wooden church was constructed at the corner of Wyoming and Chapel Streets, the present location of the parish rectory. Officially designated a parish in the Scranton Diocese in 1864, a rectory was built in 1864 and by 1868, a new, larger church, designed by Philadelphia architect E.F. Durang in his favored “Roman Baroque” style, was completed to serve the growing population of Catholics throughout the Hazleton region. I n 1874 a school for parish children was opened in a building that served as the parish clubhouse. Five Sisters of Mercy from Buffalo, New York staffed this first parochial school in Hazleton. Some 350 children registered to attend. St. Gabriel’s Parish School was used as a base for extending educational opportunity to Catholic children in the coal patch towns throughout southern Luzerne County. A night school was established for men and boys employed in the coal mines during the day. As the numbers of pupils increased, four additional Sisters of Mercy arrived from Buffalo between 1876 and 1880. By the turn of the century, St. Gabriel’s School expanded to become the first, and only, Catholic parish high school in the city, graduating its first class of five students in June 1900. In 1881 a convent was constructed for the Sisters of Mercy. No other details are available except that it was destroyed by fire during the winter of 1936. A new, larger Rectory, the present one, was constructed between 1907-1908, replacing the first Rectory, which was moved several blocks to serve a small Tyrolean Catholic Church. The Rectory continues to serve as the residence for the parish’s priests and provides parish administrative office space. A new, modern school was begun in 1911. Designed by Walter Francis Ballinger, a prominent Philadelphia architect, the Neo-Classical Revival School incorporated many of the principles of early twentieth century “modern” school design advocated by school architects across the country. The Hazleton contractor Hugh L. Campbell Sr. completed the school in 1912. An addition was completed in 1951 By 1922, structural problems associated with mine subsidence weakened the Church structure and the plans for a new Church were formulated. The cornerstone for the new Church was set in 1925, after the old Church was torn down. The new Church, designed by architect Peter Sheridan, continues to serve the St. Gabriel’s parish community The convent, designed by Anthony J. DePace of New York City, was dedicated in 1937. The convent’s construction was prompted by the destruction by fire of the original convent during the winter of 1936. By the late 1960’s, the enrollment of St. Gabriel’s High School dropped below one hundred students. As part of a diocesan-wide program to provide central high school facilities, Bishop Hafey High School was formed and opened in 1971, and St. Gabriel’s High School closed. The building was used as St. Gabriel’s Elementary School until 1991. With the enrollment in eight grades dropping from 247 in 1971 to six grades of 148 in 1991, St. Gabriel’s was merged with Monsignor Molino Catholic Elementary School creating Holy Spirit Academy. In 1995, the few remaining Sisters of Mercy were assigned to other duties throughout the diocese, and the convent was vacated. It was used briefly as a day care and pre-school. A 1996 study, funded by the Diocesan Campaign for Human Development, found a significant need for affordable housing in the Hazleton area. Through the efforts of the Diocese of Scranton, Archangel Partners of Hazleton, the Luzerne County Office of Community Development, and the Housing Development Corporation of Northeastern Pennsylvania, HUD HOME Investments Partnership Act funds were obtained for the conversion of the convent into modern housing units and office space to be known as Gabriel House, conforming to Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. In 1998, St. Gabriel’s High School was demolished and construction of the Gabriel House began after a recordation memorandum of agreement was implemented between the State Historic Preservation Officer and the developers. Gabriel House was formally dedicated on May 27, 1999. Today the Saint Gabriel’s Roman Catholic Parish Complex consists of three contributing buildings; the Gothic Revival Church, the Colonial Revival Rectory, and the former Gothic revival Convent.