Sacred Heart Church and its Neighborhood

  • Private GROUP TOUR (COSTS) is one hour long for this Sacred Heart Church (Campus and Neighborhood) walking tour. It is fully outdoors. Also a one hour indoor presentation can be given.
  • A free public tour comes up every five years.
  • A self-tour is available for anyone using the maps and text seen below.LOCATION
  • Churches of Holyoke

The school was at 340 Chestnut Street. The church is at 427 Maple and the rectory at 435 Maple. Use the map above to guide up around the block. Most people would prefer to start with the church.

stop A – Sacred Heart Church

Sacred Heart Church was started in 1876 as an offspring of the Saint Jerome Church. Masses were in the basement of the church from Christmas of 1876 until June 3 1883 when the nave was completed and the dedication happened. Until 1881 all there was was a basement but in that year the upper level was started.

This is a very elegant church in design. The church uses a Hutchins Organ.

Its steeple was not built until April 13 1897 due to lack of money. On that day the cross was added to its top and the church became the tallest building in Holyoke at 218 feet above the sidewalk height. That made it 2 feet higher that City Hall. It has been an anchor to the Churchill neighborhood of Holyoke ever since.

stop B – Sacred Heart Chapel

The Sacred Heart Chapel is located in the back right area of the church. It is small compared to most chapels.

Sanborn map analysis:

Sanborn 1889 map

Sanborn 1895 map

Sanborn 1956 map

stop C – South Chestnut Street School

The South Chestnut Street School is at the northwest corner of Sargeant and Chestnut Streets. The area where the school formerly was is now a large playground. The southwest corner at the same intersection has a large apartment block called the Clinton.

stop D – Sacred Heart Auditorium

The Sacred Heart Auditorium faces onto Chestnut Street. This auditorium and its gymnasium opened in 1929.

stop E – Sacred Heart School

Both Sacred Heart School and Sacred Heart High School started on September 3 of 1887. The Sisters of Saint Joseph from Flushing New York were the nuns for the school. The first classes were held in the basement of the church. The school was a 7 room building but an attached school hall was opened in 1888. The quick growth might have been filled by the Sacred Heart Girls’ School. According to the 1888 city registry, many girls switched from the public schools to Sacred Heart during the middle of the school year. In 1890 the school was greatly enlarged to meet the growing demand for classroom space.

The Sacred Heart School lasted until June of 1977 when it finally folded. In 1963 Sacred Heart High School was one of the three Catholic high schools of Holyoke that united to become Holyoke Catholic High School. That same year Saint Jerome School disbanded and many of its students went to Sacred Heart School from then onward.

Sacred Heart High School was the third Catholic high school in Western Massachusetts and the first in Holyoke. It lasted the longest of all the high schools.

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Across Franklin Street from the school is 348 Chestnut Street. This is the Lafrance Block. It was built in 1915. In 2019 it was awarded a Holyoke CPA grant.

stop F – Sacred Heart Convent

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The Sacred Heart Convent was started in 1887 as the school was built. It faced onto Maple Street in Holyoke. The nuns had lived in nearby apartments the year before. On December 17 1976 the convent was razed. The nuns had lived in nearby apartments since the year before.

Across Maple Street from the convent is a series of tenement houses that were built in 1890. The first is the Richmond.

stop G – Sacred Heart Rectory

James Sheehan the first priest of Sacred Heart Parish started the rectory. It is fashioned in the Second Empire Style. It was just completed the year he died – 1880. He died April 23 1880 in Holyoke but is the only pre-1900 founding pastor of a church that is not buried next to his church. He is buried in Worcester where he was born.

Many pastors have lived in this rectory through the years. Listed below are their terms and burial locations.

1stJames Sheehan18761880Saint John’s Cemetery (Worcester)
2ndPatrick PhelanThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is BOSTONSH18950921-01.1.21-10-1765-728-1113-182w.jpg18801919Calvary Cemetery (Holyoke)
3rdWilliam FoleyThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is eggs_0001-Copy.jpg19191939Saint Thomas Cemetery (West Springfield)
4thJames McGillicuddy19391949Calvary Cemetery (Holyoke)
5thJames Fitzgibbon19491968Calvary Cemetery (Holyoke)
6thThomas O’Malley19691971
7thWilliam O’Shea19721975
8thEdward Keyes19761981
9thDavid Joyce19821986
10thAlfred Cournoyer19871992
11thFrancis Riley19931999
12thJean Thibodeau-Lessard2000

stop H – Churchill Neighborhood

There are and were very many churches in the Churchill neighborhood but that is not why it is called Church Hill. Most likely it is Church Hill because the Sacred Heart Church had such a large steeple. The Churchill neighborhood in the 1870s served the Irish Catholics of the area with some Quebec ethnicity. The neighborhood has changed greatly since then.

stop I – Calvary Cemetery

The HISTORY of the Calvary Cemetery of Holyoke can be found at its own page. It was started by the Sacred Heart Church in 1882 and used since then also by the Blessed Sacrament Church and the Rosary Church.

stop J – German Reformed Church

The German Reformed Church of Holyoke started after a break with the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Holyoke. It was formed on the 16 October 1892 at this corner with the church being built in 1894. The two churches stayed separate forever. There was never a set parsonage for this church and the minister stayed at local homes and apartments. The ministers did not stay long at this Reformed church and typically signed only a three year contract and left. The church is in the neo-Gothic style with high and narrow pointed windows.

In 1950 there was a name and philosophy change to the St Andrew’s Evangelical and Reformed Church. This was not a union with the other German church of Holyoke but it did precipitate a name change for them too into the First German Evangelical Church of Holyoke. This older Holyoke church stresses Luther. Meanwhile the Reformed church stresses Calvin.

In 1961 this German Reformed Church of Holyoke united with the First Congregational Church of Holyoke to make the First United Congregational Church of Holyoke. The union moved allowed them to keep this building and thus had two buildings going. The name of this church was the St Andrew’s United Church of Christ.

When they did finally move out it became the Bethlehem Baptist Church.

The apartment complex at the SE corner of Elm and Sargeant Streets was occupied by 1915.