Architect of Catholic America: Patrick C. Keely (1816-1896)

Architect of Catholic America: Patrick C. Keely (1816-1896) June 2, 2011


Among His Achievements Were a Number of Cathedrals and Several Protestant Houses of Worship—
The Unfinished Cathedral of This City Designed By Him—
Completed Holy Trinity Spire.
The Brooklyn Eagle, August 12, 1896, 12.

Patrick C. Keely, widely known both in the United States and Europe as the “pioneer Catholic architect of America” and the designer and builder of over six hundred churches in this country, died at his home, 257 Clermont avenue, at 12:50 o’clock yesterday morning, aged 80 years. Mr. Keely, who had been an invalid for about four or five years past, became very much exhausted from the protracted heat, and it is thought that this hastened his end.

Sacred Heart Basilica, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana. 

He was born on August 9, 1816, in Kilkenny, Ireland, and attained his 80th birthday on Sunday last. He studied architecture under his father and designed and built a number of churches before coming to America. He came to the United States when he was between 24 and 25 years of age and took up his residence in Brooklyn, to which city he was devotedly attached and in which he had many warm friends among the clergy and laity. One of the first pieces of professional work that he did was the designing and construction of the altar of St. James’ pro-cathedral, Jay Street, near Concord, which was much admired for its beauty and which was the cource of much regret when it was destroyed by a fire a few years ago.

Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston, Massachusets 

Mr. Keely’s services as an architect were much in requisition and he was called on not only by representatives of his own faith to prepare plans for many new churches established throughout the East and West, but he was sought by other denominations who had seen evidences of his skill and who felt that the young architect was the man best fitted to carry out their views. Mr. Keely designed the Roman Catholic cathedrals at Chicago, Ill., and Providence, R.I.; the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston; St. Joseph’s cathedral, Hartford, and the Cathedral of the immaculate Conception, this city, which had been in course of building at intervals for many years past.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Charleston, South Carolina

He also designed and built the Church of the Visitation in Verona street, South Brooklyn, which was destroyed by fire a few weeks ago; the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Redeemer at Fourth avenue and Pacific street, and completed the spire in 1867 of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Clinton and Montague streets. The Church of St. John the Baptist, at Lewis and Willoughby avenues, together with the seminary and the college attached to that church, were also designed by him. Mr. Keely did not belong to any societies but gave his entire time and attention to his life work, that of an architect.

Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago

He was highly esteemed for his many virtues as a man and a citizen and numbered among his friends the late Cardinal McCloskey, the late Bishop Loughlin and Cardinal Archbishop Gibbons of Baltimore. He leaves two sons, one unmarried daughter and five married daughters. The funeral will take place tomorrow at 9:30 A.M., from St. John’s chapel, Clermont and Greene avenues, the Rev. J.H. Mitchell, chancellor of the diocese, being celebrant of the mass. The interment will be in the family plot in the cemetery of the Holy Cross.

St. Brigid Church, Avenue B, New York City

Mr. Keely built every Catholic cathedral in the state except St. Patrick’s in New York City. He also built the Catholic cathedrals in New England. His work is also to be seen in some of the finest edifices of an ecclesiastical nature in Canada as well as other parts of the country. He was the second man to receive the gold medal annually awarded by the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, to the prominent Catholics of the country. He designed the Jesuit church in Sixteenth street, New York, which is considered the best type of Roman ecclesiastical architecture in America.

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