Due to overcrowded conditions in St. Patrick's church and a desire for a new church to
be more centrally located in the city of Columbus, in the summer of 1866 Rev. Edward M.
Fitzgerald, then pastor of St. Patricks took steps in the construction of a new
church. Father Fitzgerald was encouraged by the generous donations made accumulating
nearly $37,000 from around 250 individuals. From the more influential members of St.
Patrick's was chosen a building committee. The committee consisted of John Conahan,
Theodore Leonard, treasurer, John Joyce, John D, Clarke, Thomas Bergin, William Naghten,
secretary, John Caren, Michael Harding, William Wall, James Naughton, William Riches, John
McCabe, Michael Hartman, John Duffy, Martin Whalen, Bernard NcNally and Michael Galvin.1
A subcommittee was selected to examine and discuss favorable locations for the church.
Many eligible sites were proposed , but the prevailing desire was to have the church
erected on Broad Street. Two lots with a total frontage of 120 feet on Broad Street and a
depth of 200 feet on Fifth Street were purchased from John Miller, through John Joyce, on
April 1866 for a price of $13,500.2 A
meeting was held of the men of St. Patricks parish to determine the name of the new
church. Rev. Fitzgerald left the choice to those in the meeting. A motion was made by J.
D. Clark to adopt the name of St. Joseph, it was seconded and agreed to thus came the name
of St. Joseph church on Broad and Fifth Street. Michael Harding was the architect that was
requested to prepare plans and specifications for the church. It was projected to be 193
feet in length and 90 feet in width. The plans were modified slightly as to the
superstructure as the work progressed but otherwise remained as first proposed. Mr.
Harding staked out the foundation on June 6, 1866 and John McCabe, the contractor began to
work of excavating the site. John Stoddard was then contracted for the masonry work. The
work continued on the foundation until November 11, 1866 when the first cornerstone was
It was a beautiful and chilly November day when the processions started from St.
Patrick's. The most reverend Archbishop Purcell was expected to be present on this joyous
occasion but because of conflicting scheduling did not attend. In his place Right Rev.
Doctor Sylvester H. Rosecrans, Auxiliary Bishop of Cincinnati attended. The procession
started at 2 p.m. with Capt. William Riches as chief marshal and the following individuals
as assistants: City Marshall Patrick Murphy, Thomas Bergin, James Joyce. J. C. Nevill,
Patrick Dunn, George Burke, John Howard, William Naghten, John Caren. The procession moved
in the following order: Hemmersbachs brass band, St. Josephs Mutual Benevolent
Society, St. Bonifaces St. Johns, St. Martins and St. Aloysiuss
Societies of Holy Cross Church, Sub deacon carrying a processional cross accompanied by
acolytes, twenty sanctuary boys in cassock and surplice, carriages containing the Bishop
and clergy, Sodality of the Blessed Virgin, Holy Angels Society, the class of boys and
girls who had received First Communion and Confirmation on the morning of that day, St.
Patricks Society from London, Societies from Newark and Delaware, and finally St.
Patricks Society of Columbus. It was noted that the procession was quite colorful
with big banners and beautiful regalia worn by the participants. The procession moved
along Grant Ave. (formally known as Seventh St.) to Broad where it turned west and stopped
at Fifth St. Arriving at the foundation of the church, the societies formed a guard on the
outer wall. It was noted that the windows of the neighboring houses, the streets, and
grounds were filled with people awaiting the ceremonies.4
The corner stone was laid on the southeast corner of the building, at the intersection
of Broad and Fifth. In its cavity was placed a sealed tin box, continuing the name
of the church, the names of the principal officers of the State and National governments,
copies of recent Columbus newspapers, the names of the reigning Pope, the Archbishop of
the Province, and pastor. Also included were the names of the officiating Bishop and his
assistants, and numerous other articles to serve as mementos of the occasion. Bishop
Rosecrans delivered and address from a temporary platform and was said to be eloquent and
forcible in the language he used pleading the divinity of the Catholic Church. At the
conclusion of the sermon, the Hemmersbach band played "Te Deum". The clergy
present were Rev. Father OReilly of Valparaiso, Ind. Rev. John B. Murray of
Chillicothe, Revs. Louis Cartuyvel and Daily of Newark, Rev. E. M. Fitzgerald of St.
Patricks Church, Revs. John B. Hemsteger and F. X. Specht of Holy Cross Church, Rev.
Father Hillebrand of St. Francis Hospital. Special trains on different railroads brought
large delegations from adjoining towns with the number of individuals being estimated at
6000. With the corner stone being laid, the foundation walls were covered over for the
winter with the intention to resume work on the building with the advent of spring.5
Papal Bulls were received naming Father Fitzgerald Bishop of Little Rock Arkansas. He
was consecrated February 1867. On February 28, 1867 Rt. Rev. Sylvester H. Rosecrans was
transferred to Columbus St. Patrick Church as its pastor. March 3, 1868 Bishop Rosecrans
was named First Bishop of Columbus. Bishop Rosecrans immediately went to work to finish
St. Josephs. Mr. Robert T. Brookes was commissioned to succeed Mr. Harding as
architect.6 Since the church was now
to become a cathedral, a few changes were made in the construction plans. It was decide to
construct the building of stone instead of brick. This necessitated a firmer and deeper
foundation to be constructed. The old walls were torn down to build new ones in their
In tearing up the old foundation, the original cornerstone was removed or covered.
There is no trace of its existence today. Newspaper accounts around this time stated a
change, there was to be a 312 foot clock tower with three clock faces and a chime of ten
bells to be located on the southwest corner. The south east tower of the cathedral was to
reach a height of 200 feet. The main tower was never completed beyond where it stands
today. The east tower never completed beyond the choir gallery level. Beneath the proposed
bell tower would house the baptistery.7
The cathedral building was designed Gothic in architecture and the outside finish was
to be of boasted ashlar, the chiseling of the stone relieving the dead appearance of a
yellow stone wall. This stone possesses the property of hardening by exposure to air, and
was obtained principally from quarries in Licking and Fairfield counties. The dimensions
of the building are 92 feet on Broad street and 185 feet on Fifth Street. The outside
walls are 42 feet in height from the ground level and 34 feet from the floor line. The
clearstory walls have an altitude of 70 feet from the ground and 62 feet from the floor.
The main walls are 3 feet thick. The clearstory walls supported by arches, rest on
clusters of Gothic columns, standing on dressed limestone pedestals. Stone crosses
surmount the outside walls at intervals to give relief to the wall structure. The windows
are cased in freestone obtained in Pickaway County. The brackets were cut from Columbus
limestone and are said to be the only stone articles in the structure procured from
The original seating capacity was projected at 2000 individuals however current
capacity seat just under 700. On Broad Street there are 3 main entrances and on Fifth
Street one. Entrance is gained to the sacristies by a door at the rear on Fifth Street and
from the pastoral residence on the west side. The arching of the windows and the supports
of the clearstory carry out the directions of General W.S. Rosecrans who, in the summer of
1870, spent time with his brother, the Right Rev. Bishop Rosecrans in ironing out certain
details of the construction of the cathedral. The stained glass windows that depict
various scenes of Saints, the Holy Family and various religious symbols were all donated.
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Church History (page 2)
This page was last updated on:
Sunday January 04, 2009.