In Huntington in the 1940’s, people had been moving in increasing numbers from the central part of the city to the southeastern part of town. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling was aware of this population trend and, in 1950, Archbishop John J. Swint purchased a two-and-three quarter acre tract of land on Norway Avenue, in the city’s rapidly growing southeastern section.
In the spring of 1951, a temporary gray-metal church building and a permanent red brick rectory were begun. Footers for the buildings were poured on June 14, 1951.
Original Church Building
For the temporary church, “a prefabricated metal building was purchased from Armco (a steel company in Ashland, KY) and erected by them,” states parish historical material. The records add that “a local builder, Harry Shamblin, and his company finished the interior.” The architectural firm of Vecellio and Kreps of Charleston “drew up plans for the rectory and the construction contract was awarded to E.P. Leach and Sons, Huntington contractors,” states the historical data. The church building and rectory were begun shortly after the footers were poured, and “by the end of November, both buildings were practically completed,” states parish history.
Mr. James E. Leach recalled that at the same time that his company was building the rectory, the temporary church was being assembled on the job site and, later the interior done by the Shamblin Company. Mr. Leach stated that Father Tierney obtained the original pews from a church in Wheeling and the Stations of the Cross came from his previous parish church. Some of the original pews can now be found in the choir loft in the church.
Father James F. Tierney
The new parish, placed under the patronage of Our Lady of Fatima, was officially established on Oct. 22, 1951. Formed from the mother parish of St. Joseph’s at 6th Ave. and 13th St., Our Lady of Fatima included most of the southeast section of Huntington and adjacent parts of Cabell County.
Father James F. Tierney, a native of Weston, WV, was appointed pastor effective November 1, 1951. Father Tierney came here from St. Anthony Parish in Grant Town, WV, where he had been pastor for six years.
The first Masses were celebrated on December 2, 1951, the first Sunday of Advent, in the temporary church on Norway Ave. at the intersection of Avondale Rd. At that time, some 200 Catholic families lived within the boundaries of the new parish.
Our Lady of Fatima School
In 1952, steps were taken to provide a grade school for the children of the parish. Building plans were approved on March 15, 1953, and the contract was awarded to E. P. Leach & Sons in August; groundbreaking took place on September 4, 1953. The new school was dedicated on Sunday, September 5, 1954, and opened on September 7th with six grades and 90 pupils. The school was placed under the direction of the Pallottine Missionary Sisters whose motherhouse was located in Huntington at that time. By September of 1955, the 7th and 8th grades were added, increasing the enrollment to 140 students.
The parish continued to grow, and on November 28, 1954, a third Sunday Mass was added, celebrated by Rev. LambertErkins, chaplain of the Pallotine Sisters Novitiate. By 1957, a fourth Sunday Mass was celebrated by Rev. Piscula, S.A.C., chaplain of St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington.