DEFINING THE LEGACY OF
PATRICK CHARLES KEELY, II
Patrick Charles Keely (1816-1896) designed and built an estimated 700 churches and ecclesiastical buildings in the eastern and western United States and Canada from the 1840s when he emigrated from County Tipperary,
Ireland, to Brooklyn, New York, until he died there in 1896. In 1884, he was awarded the Laetare Medal, the oldest and most prestigious award for American Catholics. Yet, today, few authorities in the fields of American and European art and architecture and nineteenth-century studies even know his name. Nor is anything known of his architectural education, only that he was trained as a carpenter and builder by his father, a draughtsman and builder.
Keely arrived in the United States just as the Roman Catholic Church was experiencing unprecedented expansion. A chance meeting with a young parish priest led to designs for Keely’s first church in America—the highly acclaimed Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Brooklyn, 1848 (demolished in 1957). Designed in the Gothic Revival style, which was fast becoming the hallmark of Catholic Church design throughout the country, the Brooklyn commission spawned a succession of designs for cathedrals, churches, and institutional buildings that distinguished Keely as America’s leading Catholic architect of the 19th century.
Last year, addressing the failure of recorded history, in an effort to rediscover Patrick Charles Keely and to define his legacy, speakers from the fields of art and history, conservation of the decorative arts, psychology, and photography shared their individual pursuits in that rediscovery. Those efforts inspired the program for this year.
Historian and former Brooklynite Robert Murphy is concerned not only with Keely’s design work but also with the character and the persona of the architect: who he was, his human and defining traits. That concerns him as well as the problems he encountered as a designer with clients who would not pay, engineering and construction complexities, cold-shouldering from fellow members of the architectural profession because of his ethnicity and religion, so prevalent in 19th-century America, and the deaths of two of his sons, who he hoped would succeed him in the family firm. Robert Murphy had planned to write a dissertation on Keely while a doctoral candidate at New York University during the 1970s, but his studies were interrupted. During those years, he published several scholarly articles on Keely, and he is now revisiting that five-year pursuit and preparing his research for publication in 2014.
Michael Doyle will present Acheson Doyle Partners’ recent rehabilitation of one of Keely’s early churches, the Church of St. Brigid-St. Emeric, built in 1848. He’ll discuss the context in which the structure was built and the role it played in early Irish-American history. A chronological description of alterations and maintenance history will show how this important building’s exterior, structure, and architectural details deteriorated over time. Local community activism and an anonymous donation saved the church from demolition, and also allowed the parish and Archdiocese of New York to engage a design team to develop a plan for rehabilitation. A combined approach of restoration, repair, and reconstruction methods was utilized for each scope of work component. The new design celebrates the spatial qualities and the expressive architectural elements of the interior. The intent was to convey to the congregation and visitor alike a sense of awe and joy, similar to what the early worshippers may have experienced.
Called by The American Architect probably Keely’s best work, the Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York City, built in 1882, departs from Keely’s traditional Gothic Revival style and provides instructive insight into the versatile and sophisticated genius of this little-known architect of the 19th century. Closer to an Early Christian Basilica or hall church plan with Baroque embellishments, the building has recently undergone an extensive renovation and a scientific preservation of its sweeping array of marble statuary, relief work, murals, stencil decoration, stained glass, and liturgical furnishings. Thomas A. Fenniman Architect’s mission was to “preserve, restore, and update the environment of the church to accommodate the modern parish.” Project architect Christopher Rome will discuss that accommodation, which perpetuates Keely’s architectural and liturgical vision for the Church of St. Francis Xavier.
Properly lighting the recently renovated Constantino Brumidi Crucifixion mural in the Church of the Holy Innocents in New York City, commissioned by Keely in 1870, as well as Keely’s sanctuary and nave was the goal of Jason Livingston, Principal of Studio T+L, LLC. Issues of brightness, color, and balance had to be weighed against those of budget and timing. The lighting achieves even illumination of appropriate color and density for the mural and the church interior. Effective color properties successfully capture Brumidi’s handling of color, light, and shade. Sanctuary lighting achieves effective illumination from altar to pulpit. A less ambitious design for the nave, limited by budget, consists in re-lamping the existing fixtures to achieve uniform and brighter luminosity throughout the body of the church. All of the lighting is tied together by way of a central control system located in the sacristy. Pre-sets were made for various activities, and the system was left open so that changes can be made on an as-needed basis.
Edward Furey traces the development of a selection of Keely’s notable edifices in Lowell, Massachusetts—their histories, parishes, and their severe challenges. The Industrial Age in New England saw a wave of Irish and French immigrant Catholics sweep into the cotton and carpet mills to find employment in the ever expanding industries of Lowell. Starting with the small wood Catholic Church of St. Patrick in 1853, by 1900, Lowell would be dotted with a cluster of the grandest churches to be seen in the Northeast. Following St. Patrick’s, came the Church of the Immaculate Conception, St. Joseph’s, Sacred Heart, St. Michael, and Keely’s crowning glory, the Church of St. Peter. Today, they face a very changed industrial city. John Canning will then demonstrate how James Murphy’s church of St. Patrick, Norwich, Connecticut, and Patrick Ford’s St. John the Evangelist, Clinton, Massachusetts, bridge the gap between the sensibilities and artistry of Keely, Ford, and Murphy.
Over the past year, DelmaTallerico has been compiling a data base of Keely’s work, updating her list of his existing architecture. Today, she examines some basic outlines of Keely’s design and their impact on other architects of his period. In 1962, Francis William Wynn Kervick, author of Architects in America of Catholic Tradition, noted that for years art historians had ignored the man to whom everyone would go for ecclesiastical designs during the latter half of the nineteenth century. DelmaTallerico will analyze Keely’s Catholic architecture, its simplicity and beauty of design, and demonstrate how he shared his gifts, with peers and partners alike. She will now show that Keely’s influence did not begin or end with his death in 1896. Long before he died, he shared his talents with several men who not only cooperated with Keely on a variety of projects but who also managed to establish notable careers of their own. Furthermore, she will reveal that reverberations of Keely’s influence now shed new light on Keely, as “America’s Pugin.”
Jeff Greene founded EverGreene Architectural Arts in 1978 and has led its growth into the largest decorative arts studio and specialty contractor in North America. A graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, he uses his expansive knowledge of craftsmanship and design to lead large scale restorations and decorations of historic interiors in houses of worship, theaters, commercial properties, and civic buildings worldwide. In 2012, EverGreene restored two Keely churches simultaneously: St. Francis Xavier in New York City and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany. Through Jeff Greene’s position as a professional Associate of the American Institute of Conservation and as an active member of the Association of Preservation Technology he brings greater visibility to those renovations and, consequently, to the legacy of Patrick Charles Keely.
Panel: Patrick Charles Keely at Convent Station. While Patrick Keely and his son-in-law Thomas Houghton worked collaboratively as well as independently, the juxtaposition of their work, Keely’s Mother House of the Convent of Saint Elizabeth and Houghton’s Holy Family Chapel, both at Convent Station in New Jersey, of itself invites examination. That they are accompanied by a rich archive of original drawings, correspondence, studio memoranda, and the like, while most of Keely’s records and archives have been lost or destroyed, makes it all the more important to pursue the study of this possibly unique Keely legacy. In this final segment of the symposium, Joseph DeMaria, will discuss his four-year window restoration of the Mother House, Delma Tallerico will contrast the work of Keely and Houghton, Frank Grenagel will explore funding, as well as lay/ecclesiastical sources, supporting the design and construction of the Mother House and Chapel, while Randall Gabrielan will analyze links he has found while searching for Keely in his review of the archives of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, ably curated by Sister Noreen Neary, S.C., Director of Archives, Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth. Following the panelists’ presentations, Edward Furey will moderate a discussion.
To attract the students of the College of St. Elizabeth to learn about the art and the character of Patrick Charles Keely, who is at the center of this phenomenon at Convent Station, and to elicit from the College’s dedicated administration and faculty their support and encouragement of that pursuit, The Monuments Conservancy conducted an essay contest, funded by EverGreene Architectural Arts, “Patrick Charles Keely at Convent Station.” The winner will receive a check for $500 to be presented by Jeff Greene at the symposium.
To read the winning essay by Ashley Bouwense
Presented by THE MONUMENTS CONSERVANCY
PLACE: Time & Life Building,
1271 Avenue of the Americas
(at 50th Street)
Henry Luce Room, 2nd Floor
date: Friday, March 21, 2014
time: 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
R.S.V.P. (212) 764-5645, Ext 10
*Founded by Donald M. Reynolds in 1991, on the twentieth anniversary of the death of the renowned art historian Rudolf Wittkower, the symposium is made possible through bequests of Elaine Zlobik Skinner, Joan Zlobik Gdosky, and John Leo Zlobik.
The wise man preserves that wich he values and celebrates that which he preserves.
St. Brigid's Church
123 Avenue B at 7th Street
on the edge of Tompkins Square Park
New York, NY
The Church of Saint Francis Xavier
55 West 15th Street, New York, NY 10011
Constantino Brumidi Crucifixion mural in the Church of the Holy Innocents
128 West 37th Street, New York, NY
8:30 Registration and Coffee
9:00 Welcome and Acknowledgments
Addressing the Failure of Recorded History. Donald M. Reynolds, Art Historian, New York City.
9:30 Patrick Charles Keely: the Architect, the Man. Robert Murphy, Historian, North Haven, Connecticut.
10:15 Restoration of the Church of St. Brigid-St. Emeric. Michael Doyle, FAIA, Principal, Acheson Doyle Partners Architects, New York City.
11:00 Historic Environment Accommodates Its Modern Parish Through Restoration and Preservation. Christopher Rome, Project Architect, Thomas A. Fenniman Architect, New York City.
11:45 Proper Lighting Brings to Life a Famous Mural and a Keely Interior. Jason Livingston, Principal, Studio T+L, LLC, Brooklyn, New York.
2:00 Patrick Charles Keely’s Glorious Ecclesiastical Treasures of Lowell, Massachusetts. Edward H. Furey, Artist, Educator,
Founder and President of the Keely Society, Enfield, Connecticut. Bridging the Gap with St. Patrick’s, Norwich, Connecticut, and St. John the Evangelist, Clinton, Massachusetts. John Canning, Founder and Principal of John Canning Studios, Cheshire, Connecticut.
2:45 Keely Catholic: Its Beginnings and Its Progression. Delma Tallerico, Independent Scholar, Author, Lecturer, Wexford, Pennsylvania.
3:30 Deconstructing the Style and Methods of the Master of American Catholic Architecture. Jeff Greene, Founder and President, EverGreene Aarchitectural Arts, New York City.
4:15 Essay Contest. Presentation of The Monuments Conservancy’s Essay Award, “Patrick Charles Keely at Convent Station,” Funded by EverGreene Architectural Arts. Recipient: Student of College of St. Elizabeth, Convent Station, New Jersey; Presenter: Jeff Greene.
4:20 Panel: Patrick Charles Keely at Convent Station.
Panelists: Joseph DeMaria, AIA, Architect and Planner, Morristown, New Jersey.
Frank Greenagel, Author, Educator, Industrial Psychologist, Photographer, Phillipsburg, New Jersey.
Randall Gabrielan, Monmouth County Historian, Author, Middletown, New Jersey.
Edward H. Furey, Moderator.
Copyright 2014, 2013 Monuments Conservancy. All rights reserved.