American Gothic Catholic Church Design

Joseph Sibbel Sculpture


Patrick Charles Keely (1816-1896)
"Pioneer Church Architect"

          Patrick Charles Keely was born in Ireland on August 9, 1816. The Keely family moved to America in 1842 when Patrick Charles was a young man.  They settled in Brooklyn, New York, where he worked as a carpenter.  Richard Purcell, in his book, P. C. Keely:  Builder of Churches in the United States, wrote that Keely worked as a carpenter at St. James Church (now St. James Co-Cathedral) in Brooklyn and St. John Church in Newark, New Jersey, before designing his first church, Saints Peter and Paul Church in Brooklyn, New York, in 1848. * 

          In the nineteenth century, the credit for sixteen cathedrals including those in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Providence, Hartford, Charleston, Cleveland, Brooklyn, Boston, and Chicago belonged to Patrick Charles Keely.  In addition, he designed hundreds of churches, hospitals, schools, and colleges.  The University of Notre Dame awarded him their Laetare Medal not only for his work as an architect but because of his generosity of spirit; he supplied architectural plans, in many cases, to communities too poor to pay.**

          Although Keely worked until the time of his death, his health failed him in his final years and he could not endure the heat wave of 1896.  He died at his home on Clermont Avenue in Brooklyn at the age of eighty. *** The newspaper accounts of his death referred to him as a "pioneer church architect."  ****

*Purcell, Richard, J.,  P. C. Keely:  Builder of Churches in the United States, Records of the American Catholic Society of Philadelphia, Vol. 54, No. 4 (December 1943), pp.  206-227.

**100 Years:  The History of the Church of the Holy Name, Chicago, Illinois:  The Cathedral of the Holy Name, 1949.

***New York Times, "Obituary Record:  Patrick C. Keely,"  August 13, 1898.

****Brooklyn Daily Eagle, "Was Known the World Over,"  August 12, 1896.

For more information about

Patrick Charles Keely,

please contact Ted Furey

at the Keely Society: