Keely, Patrick

KEELY, Patrick (1816-1896) was a leading American ecclesiastical architect who devoted his entire career to the design of Roman Catholic churches and cathedrals in the United States and Canada. Born in Kilkenay, Ireland on 9 August 1816, he worked in the building trades under the supervision of his father William Kiely, and his uncle John Kiely, both carpenters and builders. He emigrated to the United States in 1842 and settled in Brooklyn, N.Y. , but within a year he had changed the spelling of his last name from Keily to Keely, and shortly after began work on his first major commission there, St. Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Church, Brooklyn (1846-47; demol.). This landmark was executed in the Gothic Revival manner, a style to which he would adhere for the next fifty years.

His reputation in New England became well-known among the clergy of Lower Canada and the Maritimes. In 1859 he designed a significant Roman Catholic church in Tignish, P.E.I., a work which bears a close resemblance to his design for St. John's Roman Catholic Church in Bangor, Maine, completed just two years before in 1857. In 1859 the Bishop of Saint John, N.B. commissioned Keely to provide designs for the interiors and furnishing of the cathedral there which had been recently erected from the plans of Charles F. Anderson of New York (1852-55). Keely's work there must have pleased the Archbishop, who then commissioned him to design the Bishop's Palace (1861) situated adjacent to the Cathedral in Saint John. In 1860 Keely was summoned to Halifax, N.S. to advise the Archbishop there on the enlargement of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral. His proposal to construct an elaborate new facade, again in the Gothic Revival style, was delayed until 1868, and not completed until 1874. This then became his largest work in Canada, and may have influenced the decision to select Keely in 1878 as the architect for the new Roman Catholic Cathedral at Chatham, N.B. This project was intended to replace an earlier cathedral destroyed in a fire in February 1878. Keely was again active in Halifax in 1883 when the Archbishop selected him as one of three competitors to prepare plans for St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, Halifax. His proposal may have been too ambitious, or too costly, and his drawings were set aside in favour of those by a local architect Henry Peters.

Often referred to as 'the Pugin of America', Keely's major ecclesiastical projects can be found in Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Hartford, Newark, Providence and Roxbury and in dozens of other cities and towns. At the time of his death in August 1896 he was said to have '...designed and built more than 600 Roman Catholic churches' in the United States, a figure that has since proven to have been exaggerated (it is more likely closer to 200). A detailed monograph on the career and work of Keely, written by Francis W. Kervick, was privately printed in 1953 under the title P.C. Keely: A Record of his Life and Work (obit. New York Times, 13 Aug. 1896, 5; American Architect & Building News [Boston], liii, 22 Aug. 1896, 58; biog. F. Kervick, Architects in American of Catholic Tradition, 1962, 72, 75, illus.; MacMillan Encyclopedia of Architects, 1982, ii, 556-7; M. Rosinski, Architects in Nova Scotia: A Biographical Dictionary 1605-1950, 1994, 97). A critique and appraisal of work by Keely appeared in an essay by J. Philip McAleer entitled 'Keely - The Irish Pugin of America' (Irish Arts Review [Dublin], iv, No. 3, Autumn 1987, 16-24, illus.)

(works in Canada)

TIGNISH, P.E.I., St. Simon & St. Jude Roman Catholic Church, 1859-1860 (Examiner [Charlottetown], 20 June 1859, 2, descrip.; E. Cran, Brief History of the Parish of Saint Simon & Saint Jude, 1971, 14; H.M. Scott Smith, Historic Churches of Prince Edward Island, 1986, 67-70, illus.; Barry Magrill, A Commerce of Taste: Church Architecture in Canada 1867-1914, pub. 2012, 62-65, illus. & descrip.)
SAINT JOHN, N.B., Bishop's Palace (now the Cathedral Rectory) for Rt. Rev. John Sweeney, Cliff Street at Waterloo Street, 1861-62 (Saint John R.C. Diocese, Chancery Office, Item 1576, letter from P.C. Keely to Rev. Dr. Sweeny; and Item 1595, letter dated April 1863) )
MONTREAL, QUE., Gesu Roman Catholic Church, Bleury Street, 1864-65 (College Ste. Marie et Eglise du Gesu, 1876, 8-12, illus.; O. Maurault, La Paroisse - Histoire de l'eglise Notre Dame de Montreal, 1929, 116, 131; Montreal, Les Eglises, 1981, 42-5, illus.; Ginette Laroche, 'Les Jesuites du Quebec et La Diffusion de l'Art Chretien' in Journal of Canadian Art History, xiv, No. 2, Jan. 1993, 6-27, illus.; Jean Sebastien Sauve, "Patrick C. Keely et la Construction de l'Eglise du Gesu de Montreal" in the Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada, xli, No. 2, Autumn 2016, 35-50, illus. & descrip.)
HALIFAX, N.S., St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Spring Garden Road near Barrington Street, major additions with new facade and spire, designed in 1860; built in 1868-74 (Acadian Recorder [Halifax], 17 March 1860, 3; Morning Freeman [Saint John, N.B.], 9 Oct. 1860, 2; British Colonist [Halifax], 24 Nov. 1868, 2; C.A.B., vi, Jan. 1893, plate illus.; J. Philip McAleer 'St. Mary's Halifax: An early Example of the Use of Gothic Revival Forms in Canada' in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, xlv, June 1986, 134-6; E. Pacey, Historic Halifax, 1988 100-01, illus. )
CHATHAM, N.B., St. Michael's Roman Catholic Cathedral, 1878-79 (Saint John Weekly Freeman, 16 Aug. 1879, 3, descrip.; Daily Sun [Saint John], 25 Aug. 1879, 1, descrip.)