A Brief History
Hamilton experiences the largest population growth it had ever seen; 30% of the population living in Hamilton were of Irish descent and 9O% of the Irish community was Catholic. As the community to be served by this glorious church were Irish it was fitting that St. Patrick who served Ireland faithfully would be the patron.
Irish born Right Reverend P. F. Crinnon, second Bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton, purchased the swampy land for $10,000.00 and commissioned renowned Irish architect Joseph C. Connolly to design the church. This was a sizeable amount of money for the time considering the daily wage for 10 hours of unskilled labour was a mere .75 cents and illustrates the love and dedication the founding parishioners had for the Church.
In the spring of this year, building operations began on the new church. Workers had to dig down eight feet through muck and mud to lay the foundation. The corner stone was laid by Rt. Rev. P.F. Crinnon on June 27’.
The church was dedicated on July Pt by Rt. Rev. George Conroy, Apostolic Delegate to Canada, assisted by Archbishop Lynch, Bishop Walsh of London and Bishop Crinnon. At this time, there were 500 families in the parish.
A pipe organ, possibly made by Louis Mitchell, was installed in the choir loft to replace the original reed organ.
The christening of her peal of bells in the tower takes place on May 6th by Bishop Carbery. The 3 bells are christened after the Irish saints “St. Patrick”, “St. Brigid” and “St. Columba” and were cast by Henry McShane & Co. of Baltimore, MD
The Presbytery was built and furnished around this time under the pastorate of The Very Rev. J. H. Coty.
The current Stations of the Cross are installed (sculpted by Angers of Paris). There are 14 Stations carved into three-. dimensional figures that depict the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. When these stations were installed, they were originally in full colour but they have since been painted over and are currently monochromatic with the exception of Jesus and other prominent figures in the portrayal. Early photos of the church show that the original stations were one dimensional portrait style paintings in wooden frames marked by a cross. Two of these Stations needed to be repaired after the tractor-trailer accident in 1982. For further reference, St. Patrick’s has produced a book called “Stations of the Cross” with colour pictures.
St. Patrick’s celebrates it Golden Jubilee (50 years) on July 3. On this date, Rev. Dean Cassidy announced that St Patrick’s would become the new cathedral and St. Mary’s would be designated pro-cathedral.
Around this time the old Presbytery which faced Main St., was torn down and the current rectory was built.
A fire destroys part of the slate roof, the choir loft and some pews in the north-west corner of the church on the 17th of May, all of which is repaired to the tune of $200,000. Other improvements were made such as the carpet being installed and the ceilings were repainted with newer mote colourful depictions of religious symbols by artisans from Toronto.
On Sept 20th, a runway tractor-trailer carrying iron slabs crashes through the west wall of the church resulting in the death of a tourist visiting from Japan, and nearly $500,000 in repair costs.
At significant expense, the original slate roof was replaced due to deterioration caused by age and urban pollution. Commemorative tiles of the original 1877 roof are available for sale for those wanting a piece of local history.
The Architect, Joseph C. Connolly (1840-1904)
Born in Limerick, Ireland he received his training in the Dublin office of James Joseph McCarthy (1817-81). McCarthy specialized in work for the Roman Catholic Church, and was one of the most celebrated architects in 19th-century Ireland. Connolly advanced to become McCarthy’s chief assistant in the late 1860s. He subsequently made a tour of Europe studying church architecture, and in 1871 went into practice for himself in Dublin, although no records survive of any commissions.
In August of 1873 he moved to Toronto, Ontario and over the next 25 years designed or remodeled nearly forty Roman Catholic churches and chapels in Ontario; including The Church of Our Lady in Guelph, St. Peter’s Cathedral of London, St. Paul’s & St. Mary’s in Toronto, the Roman Catholic cathedral in Sault-Sainte-Marie (Michigan) and James St. Baptist in Hamilton. His Irish background made him the ideal person to design St Patrick’s church for the Irish Catholic community as we shall see. Joseph Connolly died in 1904 in Toronto at the age of 65.
St. Patrick’s church is the only Joseph Connolly church in Southern Ontario where the original architectural drawings are still in existence.
Points of Interest
St Patrick’s church is the 2nd oldest church in Hamilton (St. Mary’s being the oldest) and is modeled after St Brigid’s, Kilcullen (Co. Kildare, Ireland), built in 1869 to the design of J.J. McCarthy• There are 39 prominent windows in the church that feature many biblical scenes. This number does not include the windows that are in the sacristy some of which were installed as dedications to loved ones passed.
St. Patrick’s is one of the finest examples of 13th century French Gothic revival architecture in Southern Ontario. The main exterior features to note include the hammer dressed stonework from riverbed limestone, the bell tower and belfry (the spire was never built), the polygonal baptistery in the north east corner, the rose window within a pointed arched moulding, below that the double lancet windows with pointed arches and six-petal rose and the statue of St. Patrick in the niche above the door.
The interior features include a hammer beam (series of trusses repeated at intervals) ceiling decorated with fresco (painted wet plaster) religious designs in the nave and sanctuary, a thick pointed chancel arch separating the polygonal apse (vaulted recess at the sanctuary end of a church) from the nave, cylindrical limestone columns topped with symmetrical foliage capitals and a plaster and lathe arcade surmounted by paired round shamrock windows in the clerestory.
Not long after the church walls were erected the basement flooded. The water was drained through an adjoining property that had a stream which ran into the bay. This was an extra building cost that left not enough funds to pay for the steeple planned for the top of the bell tower.
Skilled workmen were brought from Montreal to carve the Corinthian capitals of the limestone columns at a cost of $100 per column. Two parishioners funded each column, contributing $50 each. The carvings were not completed until a few months after the churches opening.
On the dedication day for the church, many ladies of the parish had fine silk dresses made for the occasion. Unfortunately, still slightly wet varnish on the new pews completely ruined them!
Soon after the church was opened the pews were auctioned off to the highest bidder and nearly every pew was soon rented. A Mr. Robert Mansfield, an excellent man of proved piety and humility, rented a pew but refused to sit in it, saying that they’ had no pews in the churches in Ireland when he lived there, and that he would not sit in a pew in this country, and he didn’t.
The only original remaining pews (with carved shamrocks on the sides) are located in the choir loft.