In 1871, the parish of St. Joseph was formed and a church built in the E. 9th Street area. Most of the parishioners lived in that part town, which was referred to as “on the hill.” In May 1878, the church was burned to ground. No cause was ever revealed. Foul play was suspected according to newspaper articles. The congregation decided to move the new church to the corner of 4th & Clay Streets. The new building was built in the Gothic style, with a spire of 115 feet. It was built from brick with galvanized iron trimmings. First services were held in March 1880. In 1906-1907, St. Joseph’s School was moved from the back of the church lot to a new building on the corner of Bolivar & 9Th Streets. In 1910, the school was moved back to its old location.
That same year, the church commissioned new stained glass windows from Munich, designed by artist Emil Frei. Parishioners paid for the windows in dedication to family members. Each window depicts a saint and was made from antique glass.The formula for this specific type stained glass has since been lost. At the time of their initial installation in February 1911, they were considered “the finest that have ever been installed in a Catholic church in Kentucky” by The Owensboro Messenger. Storm windows were put in to protect the windows from the elements. More windows were added in March 1912. New Stations of the Cross, done in Gothic style, were installed at the same time as the new additional windows, as well as a new sanctuary. Together, these new pieces of arts gave St. Joseph a reputation as a “beautiful art gallery, and will no doubt be one of the most beautiful churches in the state,” according to The Owensboro Messenger.
In 1915, the parish bought the house of Robert S. Todd at the corner of 5th and Clay Streets. The house was remodeled and used as a school until the St. Hubertus Academy, a secondary German parochial school affiliated with St. Joseph, was re-christened St. Joseph Academy. St. Joseph Academy retained a large student body until the 1948 merger, when the high school students were transferred to St. Frances Academy.
Throughout its history, prayers, sermons, and confessions at St. Joseph were all spoken in German, while the Mass itself remained in vernacular Latin. This required any priest being stationed at the parish to know the German language. During WWI, the use of German was banned by the government, though after the war its use resumed in confessions and some sermons. Part of the concern of the St. Joseph parishioners had during the 1948 merger was the potential loss heritage due to the discontinuance of the German language. They were also worried about the future the church itself, which had been built by their ancestors.
Services were still held at St. Joseph Church until 1977, when fuel costs forced the parish to close the building down. The church was granted Kentucky Landmark status by the Kentucky Heritage Commission in 1978. A fire at St. Paul's Church on Christmas Day 1984 forced the parish to re-open St. Joseph until renovations were completed in January 1986. In 1989, St. Joseph Church was demolished. The stained glass were saved from destruction, and are on permanent exhibit at the Owensboro Museum of Fine Arts. The Stations of the Cross were also pulled from the church and reside now in Sts. Joseph & Paul.