In 1825 Rev. John Timon, a newly ordained Vincentian priest, was assigned to work in Perry and Cape Girardeau counties. He travelled on horse-back ministering to Catholics in this area. Father Timon presented to the bishop the need of a church in Cape Girardeau.
In a warehouse belonging to Don Louis Lorimier, the Spanish Commandant, Father Timon celebrated Mass in 1833. This warehouse, near Lorimier’s home, the Red House, became the first temporary church.
Both Catholics and Protestants attended Father Timon’s services. The congregation grew quickly and a permanent structure was needed.
Five years later a cornerstone was laid in the first church by Bishop Rosati of St. Louis. The vial in the cornerstone contained the names of Pope Gregory XVI, President Martin Van Buren and Governor Lilburn Boggs. This church stood until 1850 when a violent tornado leveled it to the ground.
On the original site of the Red House, using the same native stone foundation the present St. Vincent’s was completed in 1853. The building contractor was a native of Cape Girardeau, Mr. Joseph Lansmon. The church was consecrated by Bishop Kendrick of St. Louis. The gold crosses were placed on the walls of the church at the time of the consecration.
Old St. Vincent’s Church was doomed for destruction when a new parish church was built in the west section of the city in 1976. A small courageous group of about 15 people set about to save the original parish church. They approached the bishop and the provincial of the Vincentian Fathers for permission to preserve and restore this historic structure. On December 1, 1977, Old St. Vincent’s was declared a Religious Cultural Center by Bishop Bernard Law.
This small enthusiastic group spearheaded the first successful fund drive and committed themselves to see the project to completion. They began research in Vincentian an archives gathering information on the original structure. The first project was waterproofing the exterior and under the guidance of the Construction Engineer, they continued to plan the restoration. Services of Ted Wofford, liturgical architect, and Tom Sater, interior decorator, both from St. Louis were acquired to plan and supervise the restoration project.
1985: Interior restoration began when the exterior was complete. The church was closed for a year so progress could be made. Ted Wofford’s research revealed that Old St. Vincent’s is very much like churches built in England and Ireland in the 1850’s. The architect, Thomas Waryng Walsh, was born in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1827 and came to this country in 1849.
The architectural qualities of the structure and its historical importance suggested strongly that the mid 19th century was the most appropriate date for the restoration design to follow.
1977 through present: The faith community of Old St. Vincent’s continually sponsored fund raising projects to finance restoration. Work was accomplished as funds were acquired. New stained glass windows were made using the original design with St. Vincent de Paul in the center. The walls and ceiling were all hand painted and trimmed in gold leaf.
1990 – 95: A new copper roof replaced the old slate. Carpeting was installed throughout the church and ceramic tile in the sanctuary. Stations of the cross, statues, and the baptismal font were restored. New wrought iron chandeliers were added. The inside vestibule doors were restored with new etched glass.
1996: Historical artifacts which have been preserved were placed in the small museum in the back of church.
2014: Mutiple new artifacts have been preserved and added to the museum.