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 Southampton Neighborhood Association

Welcome to Southampton

The Southampton neighborhood occupies a one square mile area in the southwest corner of the City of Saint Louis (Missouri). The perimeter streets of Chippewa, Hampton, Eichelberger and Kingshighway are mixed commercial and residential, with Macklind, a small but vibrant commercial center bisecting the neighborhood. The eclectic and charming structures are occupied by friendly neighbors, welcoming businesses, and an active all-volunteer neighborhood association. From our family to yours, we invite you to come explore all Southampton has to offer! Join Us!

Back in 1919....and Reaching 100

In 1910s, Southampton enjoyed silent NFL...a World Series later tainted with scandal...roads filled with streetcars, automobiles and even horse drawn carriages...teddy bears, tinker toys, electric trains and erector sets filling toy boxes...radios television...telegrams were common...ringing the phone exchange for the operator to connect calls...all part of daily life.

Interwoven in that fabric were institutions that have met the challenges the decades bring. Hope Ev. Lutheran Church reached their 100 year milestone in 2016....St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church reaches this milestone this year...Buder Elementary School will celebrate their 100 year mark in 2020.

As a way to recognize the 100 year celebration of St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in this year 2019, the article below is reprinted, with permission, from Southampton St. Louis An Unconventional History

In 1919, His Excellency, Most Reverend John J. Glennon, Archbishop of St. Louis sent a letter to Father John J. Thomson. He would soon become the first Pastor of St. Mary Magdalen. In that letter, the Archbishop wrote, “I have received a petition signed by 107 residents of Southampton, requesting me to establish a new parish in that locality.” So began the story of St. Mary Magdalen.

The Southampton “neighborhood” of 1919 consisted of mostly open fields and farms dotted with some houses, while Kingshighway Blvd. formed an unpaved, muddy border.

On September 7, 1919, the first Mass of St. Mary Magdalen Parish was celebrated on the second floor in the building at 5351 Devonshire Ave. It was also the first Catholic Mass in Southampton. The first wedding was between Hobert O. Eggers and Marcella Melican on September 24th. It was performed by the first pastor, Rev. John J. Thomson. Three baptisms were performed that year. The first child baptized was Bernice Louise Huels, daughter of Bernard Huels and Nellie Jeep Huels.

Almost immediately, a fund-raising campaign was begun to purchase a permanent location. The book St. Mary Magdalen Throughout the Years tells that by December of 1920, “the property on Kingshighway from Sutherland Avenue to Bancroft Avenue was purchased by the parish for the sum of $7.500…” A frame church building was built on the site and blessed on December 18, 1921.

Southampton’s population was growing rapidly by 1925. In response, the current school building was completed and opened in 1925. Its auditorium was used as a temporary church, with the old, portable church becoming a gymnasium-auditorium. Father Thompson began plans for a new church, but he would not see it built. Father Thomson died in 1930 of pneumonia.

In October of 1930, Father William F. Mullally, (later Monsignor) became St. Mary Magdalen’s second pastor, a position he would ably hold until 1966. The parish continued to grow. He furthered plans for a permanent church during the 1930s, which was desperately needed.

It must be mentioned that Ozzie “the Maintenance Man” Schultes was on duty at St. Mary Magdalen from 1938 to his death in 2005. He did everything, from basic maintenance to skilled carpentry and woodworking. He was every bit a parish icon

The new church’s cornerstone was laid in March, 1940 and the first Mass celebrated that same year. The cornerstone for St. Mary Magdalen Church was laid on March 31, 1941 and the church completed in 1941. Dennis McCarthy, 6, of 5039 Devonshire Avenue, was the first to receive his First Holy Communion in May, 1941.

The church’s beautiful marble altar is a story in itself. It was made in Italy, originally one of the Axis powers, and World War II was already being fought in Europe. The altar was moved to neutral Switzerland, and then disappeared. A second altar arrived broken. Finally, the third altar arrived intact and has been in service ever since.

St. Mary Magdalen’s exterior is called “ecclesiastical Art Deco.” (Art Deco is an architectural style very popular in the 1920s, 30s and 40s.) It was designed by A.F. and Arthur Stauder of Stauder Architecture of Kirkwood, the same firm that designed the now-demolished Avalon Theater. The interior, featuring a beautiful beamed ceiling, is a very traditional layout called a T-Shape, providing an outline of the cross.

During the World War II years, weekly Red Cross blood drives were conducted. The parish had 380 parishioners serving in the Armed Forces, including Father Mullally, who joined up in the Chaplain Corps.

In 1945 there were 8-1/2 acres known as "The Dump"---an area covered with trash and weeds. Msgr. Mullally proposed that the parish by the property, for $8,000 an acre, to be used as a recreation area. Then he sold the northern 3-1/2 acres for $50,000 for later use as Famous-Barr's Southtown parking lot. Ground was broken for the Magdalen Youth Center on February 20, 1949. Due to some labor strikes it did not open until late 1950.

The Magdalen Youth Center was an impressive building. The “Saint Mary Magdalen Parish, 1919-199, 75th Anniversary-A Brief History” describes a Center that “seated 1500 for athletic events, 2,000 for shows, and featured a clubroom, showers, lockers, bowling lanes, playing felids and a stage.” With time’s passage, the Youth Center simply became known as “The Gym” to the parish kids--it is covered in detail in the next chapter. With the opening of the Magdalen Youth Center, the parish’s building configuration was completed. The Magdalen Youth Center was eventually titled the Msgr. Louis F. Meyer Youth Center. The athletic field was known as Mullally Field. Now, very sadly, the Youth Center was demolished. This demolition was a major loss to the neighborhood.

After World War II, the number of parishioners continued to grow.

Msgr. Mullally continued to successfully guide the parish during the growth years of the 1950s through his retirement in 1966. He remained at the parish until his death in 1970.

After Msgr. Mullally retired, Msgr. Louis F. Meyer was appointed St. Mary Magdalen’s third pastor in March of 1966. He was deeply involved in the Catholic Youth Council (CYC) which was reflected in the growth of sports and dances at the parish. St. Mary Magdalen continued to flourish under his skilled guidance. He worked with local banks and organizations to attract new people into the neighborhood and parish. His tenure ran through 1985. He later returned as “Pastor Emeritus.”

Father F. Joseph Reilly became pastor in 1985. Msgr. Dennis Doerhoff came from Our Lady of Sorrows to be pastor from 1991 through 2005. He was followed by Father Richard J. Schilli as pastor from 2005 through 2008. The church’s interior was repainted and the altar area remodeled in 2005 while Father Schilli was pastor.

Msgr. John J. Borcic took the role of current pastor in 2008, and he continues to guide the parish.

The St. Mary Magdalen School’s development paralleled that of the church. In May of 1920, the residence at 4909 Devonshire Avenue was bought for $6.500 and was attended by 50 pupils. Some $3,000 in equipment was also purchased. A frame building was erected in the backyard to accommodate additional students. Sister Mary Hortensia Geatley, CSJ, was the first principal. As the school grew, a portable, frame building was constructed in the residence’s backyard in 1921.

These temporary arrangements were replaced when the cornerstone for St. Mary Magdalen School, at Kingshighway and Sutherland was laid on March 25, 1925 and was partially built and in use by September of that year. It was finished in 1927 when a second wing was added at a cost of $60,000.

In 1957, a third-story convent was added to the school building for the Sisters of St. Joseph. The addition is in the same style as the original 1925 church; it looks like it has always been there. One of the pupil’s, in quote from the book St. Mary Magdalen Throughout the Years, said “When they built the convent on top of the school, the snow days vanished!” Prior to that, the sisters took taxis to the school from the Carondelet Mother House. Another pupil, Den Polley, Class of 1965, recalls having only one snow day in his eight years at the school—and he had to wait till eighth grade for that one shining day.

The school was closely tied to the Magdalen Youth Center, sometimes called the Parish Center, and used it for sports and “gym” sessions.

In the late 1950s, the school actually combined some grades into one classroom, due to the influx of “Baby Boomer.” For example, one room held second and third grade classes, and the sister rotated between the two. This arrangement actually did work. The book St. Mary Magdalen Throughout the Years reports “Enrollment increased each year. During the 1968-69 academic year there were 558 students in grades Kindergarten through 8th.”

Until the early 1960s, the teachers were all Sisters of St. Joseph. That gradually changed, and in 1991, the few remaining Sisters issued a sad goodbye to the parish they served for seventy years.

As of 1994, approximately 3,100 had graduated from the school.

St. Mary Magdalen School closed in 2005. The school’s enrollment was at a level that caused the St. Louis Archdioceses to merge it with Our Lady or Sorrows’ school and rename both institutions as “St. Katherine Drexel School.” Classes were held at what had been Our Lady of Sorrows School. (The renaming was VERY unpopular and was later reversed back to Our Lady of Sorrows School.) The St. Mary Magdalen school building, still in excellent repair, is now used for special events.

St. Mary Magdalen continues to be an important, positive presence in the Southampton neighborhood. It is an anchor on South Kingshighway Blvd.

Many of the facts, figures and dates in this article are from “Saint Mary Magdalen Parish, 1919-1999, 75th Anniversary-A Brief History” and “St. Mary Magdalen Throughout The Years, 90th Anniversary, 1919-2009.” Thanks to St. Mary Magdalen and all those who authored those two publications.

Dennis J. McCarthy and Dennis J. Polley


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Special thanks to SOHA neighbors, including S. Rackers, S. Peak, who provided photos!

PO Box 5183

Saint Louis, MO  63139

Southampton Neighborhood Association is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization.

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