St. Raphael parish buys back old school for new cathedral

2011-07-03T12:30:00Z 2012-01-06T14:13:41Z St. Raphael parish buys back old school for new cathedralDOUG ERICKSON | | 608-252-6149

The Cathedral Parish of St. Raphael has purchased a vacant school building on the same block where St. Raphael Cathedral, demolished after an arson fire, once stood.

The congregation plans to eventually use the parcel as part of a new cathedral development.

“This shows we are serious about building a new cathedral and that we want the largest footprint possible for the cathedral and its associated buildings,” said Monsignor Kevin Holmes, parish priest.

The run-down school building, 31 S. Henry St., was purchased June 24 by the Cathedral Parish, the name given to three Catholic congregations on the Isthmus, including St. Raphael’s, after their 2008 merger. The price was $2.05 million, Holmes said.

The St. Raphael congregation was left homeless after the 2005 fire. As the designated cathedral for the entire 11-county Madison Catholic Diocese, the church housed the bishop’s chair, the symbol of his authority.

The Cathedral Parish used a portion of the insurance settlement to buy the building, Holmes said. There is no specific timeline for replacing the cathedral, he said.

The seller of the school building was developer Cliff Fisher, who had hoped to add three stories of new construction to the school’s existing three stories for a 58-unit apartment building. That plan fell through “because banks aren’t loaning money,” he said.

Fisher paid $27,187 in property taxes in 2010 on the parcel, which is assessed by the city at $1.2 million but appraised higher. The church plans to apply for tax-

exempt status for the parcel.

The purchase of the building returns it to Catholic ownership. St. Raphael Church built the structure in 1962 and operated a parish school out of it beginning in early 1963, Holmes said. The school closed in 1970 due to declining enrollment, he said.

The building was sold in 1971. For a time, it was home to the now-defunct Madison Business College.

The school building shares a common wall with another vacant building running along Henry Street that the parish already owned. That building was used as a rectory until shortly after the fire.

The church intends to raze both buildings this year and return the land to open space for now, Holmes said.

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