From Church to Skate Park: The Remarkable Transformation of St. Liborius
Dave Blum’s Vision: From Welder to Farmer to Sk8 Liborius Founder
In the heart of St. Louis lies a testament to the power of creativity and unity: Sk8 Liborius.
“Underserved, urban youth are the congregation now,” proclaimed Dave Blum, his voice echoing the sentiments of a new era.
Once a welder whose deft hands had shaped the City Museum, and later a humble farmer, Dave Blum embarked on an inspired journey to repurpose this historic church into Sk8 Liborius, a sanctuary for skateboarders. Within the hallowed halls of this architectural marvel, once adorned with solemn religious paintings, now stand striking graffiti and sinuous skate ramps.
Ava Verhoff, a spirited fifteen-year-old known in the community by her playful moniker, Pushy Longstocking, reminisced about the moment she first crossed the church’s threshold: “I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ Because the ceiling is so high and the paintings and everything is so detailed — and then there’s a skatepark. It’s like a dreamland.”
The History of St. Liborius
Nestled within the historic St. Louis Place neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, lies the St. Liborius Church and buildings, a testament to the rich heritage of the former Catholic parish of St. Liborius. Embraced by the passage of time, this hallowed district bears the prestigious designation of a City Landmark in St. Louis, as well as its listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
The inception of St. Liborius can be traced back to the year 1856 when it was founded as a German national parish. By 1889, the magnificent church, with its soaring spires and intricate craftsmanship, was completed. St. Liborius emerged as a beacon of faith for the German Roman Catholic community in the northern reaches of St. Louis. The rectory was constructed the following year, and the convent graced the grounds in 1905. For more than a century, the School Sisters of Notre Dame imparted their knowledge and wisdom to the eager students of the parish school, from 1859 until 1969. Recognizing the significance of these stately structures, they were declared a City Landmark in 1975 and earned their place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
However, the passage of time saw a decline in the number of Catholics in the area, necessitating a merger with neighboring parishes, including Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Holy Name, and Holy Trinity.
Following 103 years of devout worship and spiritual guidance, the church was shuttered in 1992, leaving the building to find a new purpose. For a time, the Karen House compassionately transformed the space into a sanctuary for the homeless, offering warmth and shelter within the once-hallowed walls. Yet, as the demands of maintaining the deconsecrated edifice grew increasingly burdensome, the Catholic Workers residing at Karen House found themselves at a crossroads. The property was eventually acquired by Hogan Street Partners LLC.
Standing proudly amidst the surrounding landscape, the church building is a grandiose testament to the Gothic Revival style, cloaked in a rich red-brick veneer. The meticulous design of this awe-inspiring edifice can be credited to the visionary talent of New York City architect William Shickel. His masterful touch and keen eye for detail are evident in the intricate craftsmanship and architectural harmony that define this remarkable structure.
Once upon a time, the central bell tower boasted an elaborate stone tracery spire, reaching toward the heavens as a symbol of faith and aspiration. This magnificent pinnacle of artistry and skill, sadly, was removed in the 1960s, leaving behind a nostalgic memory of a bygone era. Nonetheless, the essence of the church’s grandeur and the enduring spirit of the Gothic Revival movement remain, resonating through the ages and captivating the hearts of architecture aficionados who come to admire this enduring monument to human ingenuity and devotion.
The Transformation of St. Liborius
Fast forward to recent years, in a moment of profound transition, the group entrusted the church keys to Dave Blum. With reverence for its storied past, and an eye toward a vibrant future, the church has been reimagined and repurposed to serve a new generation – a testament to the enduring spirit of St. Liborius and the transformative power of community. In collaboration with Bryan Bedwell, Joss Hay, and a host of co-owners, Blum has cultivated the reputation of this indoor skate park. For the past decade, the hallowed halls have played host to countless skate sessions, providing a vibrant haven for the underground skate scene. These events have funded essential repairs to the aging building.
Thus, Sk8 Liborius has emerged as an emblem of resilience and transformation, where the echoes of the past meld seamlessly with the exuberant energy of a new generation, forging an unexpected and captivating sanctuary for the urban youth of St. Louis.
The year 2016 saw artists RasTerms and Depoe grace its hallowed halls, and later that same year, the church was featured on an episode of VICELAND’s “Abandoned.” As the sun sets on the storied history of St. Liborius Church and Buildings, its timeless spirit and rich legacy continue to endure, capturing the imagination of all who visit its hallowed grounds.
Investing in a Brighter Future
However, before this sanctuary of art and athleticism can officially welcome its congregation of spirited youth, the once-hallowed halls must be brought in line with city codes. Embarking on this ambitious endeavor, the devoted team behind Sk8 Liborius has launched a GoFundMe campaign, seeking to raise $500,000 for the much-needed repairs. With the generous support of patrons and the community, they have already secured almost $60,000; an encouraging start that speaks to the project’s potential impact.
The importance of funding a project like Sk8 Liborius cannot be overstated. By providing an inclusive, community-centered space for both the youth and the broader public, this innovative venture fosters connections, nurtures creativity, and offers a safe haven for self-expression. In turn, the establishment of such arts and community-focused spaces has been shown to significantly reduce crime rates, benefiting not only the participants but the community as a whole.
Moreover, the revitalization of Sk8 Liborius breathes new life into a historic structure, preserving its legacy while adapting it to serve the needs of a modern community. As volunteers from all walks of life gather to contribute their time and expertise to the construction effort, they are not only investing in a brighter future for their city, but also weaving together the social fabric that unites and strengthens their community.
The transformation of Sk8 Liborius thus stands as a shining example of what can be achieved when art, history, and community come together, harnessing the power of unity and creativity to reshape the world for the better.
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