St. Joseph's Parrish was established for Norfolk's African Americans by the Josephite Order in September 1889, with a place of worship and a school for students from elementary grades through high school. In May 1893, a two-story brick building was dedicated at Queen Street (now Brambleton Avenue) near Brewer Street to house the church and its school. The school had the city's first high school marching band and a football team, the Praying Saints, whose chief rival would later be Norfolk's Booker T. Washington High School. The congregation moved into the former Cumberland Street Methodist Church on Freemason Street in 1932.
The school was expanded to twelve classrooms in 1928 to accommodate a student body of 800. Tuition was ten cents a week for elementary students, twenty-five cents for high school, and no student was turned away for inability to pay. St. Joseph's School and Church shut their doors in 1961, because of the city's ambitious urban renewal program, and merged with the parish of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception on Chapel Street. Scope Arena and Chrysler Hall occupy the Brambleton Avenue site today.
(left) Entrance to St. Joseph's Church ca 1914 with church members and (seated) the Bishop of the Richmond Diocese.
(center) The former Cumberland Street Methodist Church,
occupied by St. Joseph's from 1932 to 1961.
(top right) St. Joseph's Church, interior ca 1914
(right) St. Joseph's School as it appeared after the extensive 1928 renovations.