St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Serving as the seat of the Archbishop of New York, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is located directly across from Rockefeller Center. The church was built in 1858 to accommodate the archdiocese’s growing population, replacing St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral.
The church lot had several owners, serving during a time as a college, later as a chapel, and nearly becoming a cemetery in the late 1820s. By the early 1840s, the diocese of New York had increased to 200,000 members (from its modest 15,000-member beginnings), and while at the time this location was not very developed (the Rockefeller Center would not come around until a century later), its Archbishop, John Joseph Hughes, believed that this area would eventually become popular and so insisted on this location for their new cathedral.
In 1853, he hired the firm Renwick & Rodrigue to design the cathedral (the Rodrigue in the name was, incidentally, William Rodrigue, Hughes’s brother-in-law). Inspired by the Cologne Cathedral, they designed a gigantic building in the Gothic Revival style. The building was so large that Hughes summarily requested it be reduced, removing an ambulatory, a chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and buttresses, particularly in order to make way for the clergy and archbishop’s residences.
The cornerstone was laid out on August 15, 1858, though its exact location has been lost. By 1860, the funds to build the cathedral had been depleted, causing Hughes to halt all progress. The onset of the American Civil War in 1861 prevented its resumption, and Hughes passed away in 1864 before the project was completed.
It wasn’t until 1866 that work began again, and in 1877, though incomplete, it was opened for public viewing. This helped to gather more funds to continue its construction. It finally opened on May 25, 1879, with thirty-five bishops and six archbishops in attendance for its dedication.
Spires were added starting in 1886, and at 100 meters in height (330 feet), they made the cathedral the tallest structure in New York at the time. This was short-lived, however, as the New York World Building had surpassed it within a year.