The Old Adobe Mission

The Old Adobe Mission is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

2023 is a big year for Old Town, as family and friends gather to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Old Adobe Mission and the 75th anniversary of the Parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. 

Mission Historian Ernie Kallen and Father (Fr.) Gregory Schlarb, Pastor/President of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, are eager to highlight the significance of these sites to the community.

“The Old Adobe Mission is the oldest standing church in Scottsdale and the first Catholic Church established by the diocese (in 1948) for Scottsdale,” Fr. Schlarb said. 

“It’s a beacon of hope for Catholics and the Hispanic community who built and established the need for the Mission in 1933. Back then, it was considered mission territory of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tempe, whose priests traveled to celebrate mass in the Old Adobe Mission,” he continued.

The church was named Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) in 1932, and families made and brought their own pews as Rev. James Davis led the first mass on October 15, 1933. 

Community involvement grew, and the Parish building was officially erected in 1948. James Mulvihill was the Parish’s first pastor.

It outgrew the original building on Brown Avenue and moved into a larger church on Miller Road and 2nd Street in 1956. Today, that building is known as Maguire Hall, still on the campus of the Parish.  

“The Old Adobe Mission was just a regular little church and was designated as a ‘parish church’ after the Bishop of Tucson (at the time all of Arizona was under the Diocese of Tucson) erected Our Lady of Perpetual Help,” Kallen said. “This was the first established parish in Scottsdale, with borders from 48th Street on the west to the Indian Reservation to the east; and McDowell Road in the south to the Maricopa County line in the north. At that time our church served a large area, thus we had to eventually move to a larger building.”

Around then, the Old Adobe Mission became home to the Knights of Columbus, who remained there for 22 years. The Parish joined the Diocese of Phoenix in 1969 and opened its third and current church in 1978 (on Miller and 1st Street), the same year the Scottsdale Symphony Orchestra settled in the Mission church. This arrangement lasted until 2003 when efforts began to restore the historic building to its former status.

The restoration was completed in September 2017, and the Old Adobe Mission was named to the National Register of Historic Places a year later. While regular mass is no longer held there, the mission is open daily for visitors and hosts weddings, funerals, baptisms and events. 

Meanwhile, the Parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help continues to thrive at the present-day church on Main Street. Even with all the changes throughout the years, these sites have served their purpose of bringing the community together. Church leaders have bright ideas for the future, too.

“Some initial plans for OLPH are to paint the church’s exterior, continue our xeriscape conversion at the main campus, and update the front signage,” Fr. Schlarb said. “We also hope to update the landscaping at the Old Adobe Mission.”

The Parish and mission started celebrating their anniversaries in November 2022. Monthly events will be starting this spring until November 2023, including Oktoberfest, Dia de Los Muertos, a Living Nativity, Chili Cook-off, Mardi Gras, Springfest dinner and auction, ice cream socials and karaoke nights. 

The events culminate in a 75th anniversary mass led by Bishop John Dolan on Sunday, October 8, 2023, at 11 a.m.