Architecture Program


Date of this Version

Spring 5-15-2015


Pressimone, Rebecca A. "Exploring Nineteenth Century Church Architecture in Saint Louis, Missouri: 1870-1900." Master's Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2015.


A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Architecture, Under the Supervision of Professor Betsy Gabb. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Rebecca Pressimone


Steeplechasing, a seventeenth century pastime in England, was a form of match horse racing. At the time, steeples were the most distinguishable landmarks and were used to indicate the beginning and end of a steeplechase race. Over time, steeplechasing became more of a sport, and has since been turned into a track and field event, however the idea of the steeplechase remains present in architectural development, travel, and tourism. Saint Louis, Missouri—home to close to fifty religious denominations—is not unaccustomed with the design, history and use of a steeple. In Saint Louis, steeples were, and continue to be staple church design elements, signifiying geographic location and structural magnificence. For many churches in Saint Louis proper, the steeple was included to make a statement in its neighborhood and for its parishioners. Though strength in faith has dropped off more in today’s society, in the late nineteenth century, churches stood as an icon for their parish communities; they also portrayed religious significance for many Christian groups. From 1870-­‐1900, ten churches throughout Saint Louis were built, or rebuilt as parish homes; each building adorned with a towering steeple, gracing the Saint Louis skyline. Though some of the parishes are older than the timeline defined in this paper, and a number of steeples were later additions, each church building was built in this brief thirty-­‐year period, and remains recognizable today by their expressive steeples. This paper will conduct architectural analyses of five Roman Catholic churches, three Evangelical churches, and two Lutheran churches, including an analysis of each unique steeple. Analyses will include a brief account of the church and parish’s history providing insight into the development and construction of these late nineteenth century ornaments. The use of the steeple as the prominent design element for this research introduces an all but lost form of entertainment to the education sphere, introducing a modern day steeplechase in Saint Louis, Missouri.

Advisor: Betsy Gabb