NOTE: SCANNING THE QR CODE AT THE BOTTOM CORNERS OF IMAGES WILL BRING YOU TO A 360 DEGREE VIRTUAL REALITY VIEW OF EACH ROOM PICTURED. YOU CAN EITHER TILT AND TURN WHILE LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE TO VIEW ALL AROUND THE ROOM, OR USE A VR HEADSET TO BE ENTIRELY IMMERSED AS IF YOU WERE ACTUALLY THERE. EITHER SCAN FROM YOUR COMPUTER SCREEN, YOUR TABLET, OR A FRIEND’S PHONE.
I am sending out VR headsets to certain tiers in my Patreon
Saint John High School was opened initially as an elementary school 139 years ago in the year 1877, by the oldest parish in Ashtabula County – Saint Joseph Parish, which was also originally opened as an elementary school in 1865; however, the school’s opening was years before it would become Saint John. The building was formerly known simply as the Station Avenue school, holding class for elementary students from 1890-1952. It’s unclear what name the school may have held from 1877 – 1890.
While Saint John may now sit abandoned and quiet, many still know it well as the original school – including Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer, who grew up in Ashtabula. Floors collect dust, while loose windows rattle in the blowing winds – but Saint John has a deeper history, buried beneath the clutter that so many seem to glance past. This building lived one incredible life, and the stories it may be able to tell could be equally so. While the building can’t speak for itself, all we can do is look into what once was, and do all we can to preserve its history.
Ashtabula’s population grew rapidly through the years leading up to 1890, when it was eventually decided that more space was necessary. The Mother of Sorrows Parish was established, and with it, the opening of Mother of Sorrows School, founded by principal Miss Mary Cox. Beginning in 1892, and furthering into later years, the school’s staff included members of the Sisters of the Benedictine order from Erie, Pennsylvania, the Sisters of Saint Joseph from West Baden, Pennsylvania, the Sisters of Charity of Saint Augustine, the Sisters of Notre Dame and the Holy Humility of Mary Sisters. During the school’s early life, the Sisters of Saint Joseph and Sisters of Charity from Cincinnatti took control of all programs, holding the role of teachers until 1897, when the Holy Humility of Mary Sisters – otherwise known as the “Blue Nuns” – took control of the school’s educational programs.
Come September 1953, the school would open its doors for the very first time as a Saint John High School – opened by Reverend Joseph Feicht. Sadly, it was not long before the building would be destroyed by a fire on November 5, 1953. The community came together, and with much determination and hard work, the school was rebuilt while classes continued within the St. Joseph School and the Pacific School annex. Less than a year later, in September of 1954, restoration would come to completion, and the doors would open once again, welcoming students – reuniting bright minds all within one building.
The school underwent a much needed expansion in 1963, as Ashtabula’s population steadily continued to grow. With such a quickly increasing student capacity, it was decided that an addition was necessary.
Twenty-nine years later, due to declining student enrollment tied with significant financial issues, the Youngstown Diocese had decided to close Saint John in 1992. Incredibly distraught, the neighbors who knew and loved this school as part of their hometown would fight day and night to re-open the building. Parents, teachers and community supporters all banded together in hopes of bringing life back into the beloved school within their close-knit community. Enough money was raised through supporters of their efforts, and the school debt was retired. The group would continue to push for purchase of the school directly from the diocese, until they finally agreed to sell the building and its contents to the Saint John supporters for $100. The school was once again brought to life under a board of directors, with its re-opening as an independent Catholic high school in September of 1992.
Saint John was closed for good in 1997, when a large reorganization took place to move students to a newer, larger location. The new location was a K-12 school, holding K-6 at the Mount Carmel Parish campus, and 7-12 at an alternate campus. To this day, the school continues to operate from their newer location.
Photos found on a roll of film from 1992: