Bishop John Brondel founded St. Joseph’s Parish in 1902 to serve the varied ethnic groups settling on Butte’s south side. Father P. A. Quesnel celebrated the parish’s first Mass in a makeshift public hall. In 1907, a combination parish church and school was built on Delaware Street, which served until it was destroyed by fire in 1911. Once again, services were held in a public hall while the present church was under construction. On Christmas Day of 1911, the first Mass was offered in the grand new church, which was dedicated by Bishop John Carroll, the following April. Albert O. Von Verbulis, the Austrian-born architect who designed Helena’s famed St. Helena Cathedral, drew the plans for this impressive Greek Revival style building. Ionic columns supporting a full-height entry porch, denticulated cornice, and beautiful stained glass enhance the tall windows and light-colored brick.
The stained glass windows were created by Munich Studios of Chicago, and are beautiful examples of the best of their work. The company specialized in memorial stained glass windows in the style of world-famed Mayer and Zettler of Munich, Germany. Like the windows they emulated, the Munich Studio style is characterized by heavy painting, attention to detail, and elaborate figure placement.
The church vestibule contains four windows depicting John the Baptist and Jesus in a baptistry window; Mary as Our Lady of Victory; Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music; and Saint Joseph,
the patron saint of the parish. This latter window is partially obscured by stairs to a choir loft that was added in a 1960s renovation.
The large side windows in the nave primarily depict joyful occasions of the New Testament. Only one of these windows does not represent a New Testament story, and that is the window representing St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, who received visions of Christ from the age of twenty. She was canonized a saint in 1920.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart was very strong at the time. One of the two rose windows located in the transept bears the inscription “Donated by the Sacred Heart League in honor of Rev. Father McCormick.” Many of the symbols in this rose window refer to Mary: the “Star of the Sea,” the rose without thorns, the tower of David, and the Immaculate Heart. The north rose window was donated by the Butte division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish Catholic fraternal organization.