5 The new seminary/college was built and called the Athenaeum, (later St. Xavier College). It opened in the fall of 1831, measuring 50’ x 130’, and was located 60’ north of the Cathedral.16 The building stood two and a half stories tall with an ample, well-lit basement containing classrooms for chemistry, physics, drawing and music. In the front, on the first floor, there were two living rooms for the Cathedral pastors and college professors. In the back there were classrooms and an assembly/study hall. The second floor front had additional space for professors; the back held a library and a student chapel. A vaulted attic served as a dormitory for boarders. Bishop Fenwick had a strong devotion to St. Francis Xavier, the missionary, and so he dedicated his seminary and chapel to him. One year later, an Episcopal residence plus a seminarian classroom was built between the Cathedral and the College.17
Figure 2: Buildings on west side of Sycamore (between 6th and 7th Street) during the 1830’s and 1840’s: (left to right) St. Peter’s Cathedral (became St. Xavier Church), the Bishop’s residence, the Athenaeum (became St. Xavier College) and a local firehouse. Source: St. Xavier High School Archives)
The faculty at the Athenaeum was made up of local diocesan clergy and mature seminarians. The Athenaeum’s brochure stated, “The college course will enhance the Greek and Latin authors—both historians and poets—which are usually read; the Hebrew, Spanish, French, and English languages, the various branches of Mathematics, Reading, Writing, Geography, and the use of the Globes.”18 As more and more Catholic immigrants arrived in Cincinnati, more demands were put upon the small number of available diocesan priests. The Bishop realized there were not enough priests to serve the needs of both the growing flock and the Athenaeum. So, from the beginning, Fenwick began asking
Early history of St. Xavier High School researched and written by Fr. Dennis Ahern, S.J.