The Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston
Patrick Charles Keely was born in Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland, on August 9, 1816, the son of a builder who had moved to Thurles from Mlkenny to construct St. Patrick's College. After its completion in 1837, the elder Keely acted as both architect and builder for the Fever Hospital, finished in 1840. What training in architectural design young Patrick received is unknown, but it is likely that he learned construction from his father.
At age 25 he sailed for America, settling in Brooklyn where he took up the carpentry trade. Among his first designs were altars at the Seminary at Lafargeville and in St. James' Pro-cathedral in Brooklyn, for which he acted as superintendent of construction as well. In due course, a young priest of his acquaintance, Father Sylvester Malone, contacted Keely regarding a new church he planned to build in the Williamsburgh section of Brooklyn. Together they worked out a plan from which Keely developed a Gothic design. Its dedication in 1846 opened a new era in Catholic building, and Keely was besieged with requests for designs of churches and other buildings to serve the rapidly increasing immigrant population.
In 1849, a scant three years after completing his first church, Keely was called upon to design the Cathedral at Albany for Bishop McClusky, who was to become the first American cardinal. This was the first of 20 cathedrals for which he received commissions, including those in Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, Hartford, Newark, Providence, and, of course, Boston. His total output of churches is said to total more than 600, plus a number of institutional buildings, Virtually all of which were religiously oriented. The geographical distribution of Keely's work ranged from Charleston, South Carolina to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and as far west as Iowa.
Keely's work in Boston may have begun as early as 1851, with the rebuilding and enlarging of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in South Boston. This granite Gothic Revival structure was designed by Gridley J.F. Bryant in 1843, completed in 1845 and burned in 1848. Its rebuilding was completed in 1853. Keely's first complete church in Boston was St. James on Albany Street (1853-55), followed by Most Holy Redeemer in East Boston (1854-57), Notre Dame Academy in Roxbury (1855-71), Church of the Immaculate Conception in the South End (1866-61), St. Francis de Sales in Charlestown (1859-62), Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End (1861-75), St. Francis de Sales in Roxbury (1867-69), Our Lady of the Assumption in East Boston (1869-73), St. Thomas Aquinas in Jamaica Plain (1869-73), St. Augustine in South Boston (1870-74), Holy Trinity in the South End (1871-77), St. Vincent de Paul in South Boston (1872-74), St. James the Greater in Chinatown (1873-75), St. Peter in Dorchester (1873-84), St. Mary in the North End (1875-77), Our Lady of Victory (?) (1877), St. Joseph's Church interior in Roxbury (1883), St. Peter's rectory (ca. 1885), and St. Mary in Charlestown (1887-92). The successor firm of Keely and Houghton designed St. Margaret's Church in Dorchester (1899-1904) and St. Mary's School in Charlestown (1901-02).