John Mullany’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church

John Mullany’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church

St. Mary’s Catholic Church

Built: 1864 – 1867

Located at the Northeast corner of E. 15th and White Streets

St. Mary’s (circa 1860)

By 1863, the German immigrant population of Dubuque was increasing dramatically. The membership of the Holy Trinity parish had outgrown its stone church that Bishop Loras dedicated in 1850 for the German speaking Catholics. Therefore, the parish formed the German Roman Catholic Building Association in order to construct a new church, supporting buildings, and to raise funds for the project. The parish purchased five lots from the Langworthy Estate, (a prominent Dubuque family) and hired John Mullany as architect to design the church. Interestingly, Bishop Clement Smyth chose an Irish architect to design a church for the expanding German parish. Mullany had already proven his experience in designing St. Raphael’s Cathedral and thus built a close relationship with Bishop Smyth earning him the commission.

St. Mary’s from a view (circa 1860)

St. Mary’s is designed in the Gothic Revival style of architecture, particularly the tower and steeple with its tiers, spirelets, finials and other decorative details. It is 250 feet in height, the tallest steeple in the region. Early descriptions of Mullany’s design for St. Mary’s reference the Salisbury Cathedral in England as his model. However, it is most likely that he drew his inspiration from Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin’s design for St. George Cathedral, the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Southwark, London, (the St. George tower was never built due to lack of funds). Mullany was strongly influenced by Pugin’s work in Gothic Revival architecture. St. Mary’s is one of the oldest remaining high-style Gothic Revival church buildings in Iowa.  The interior includes lavish decoration and stained glass windows from the F.X. Zettler Company of Munich, Germany, one of the premier art glass companies of the period.

St. Mary’s endured and enriched the lives of its parishioners for 143 years. In 2009, the St. Mary’s parish council voted to recommend to the Archdiocese of Dubuque, that the parish close after years of declining membership, lack of funds, and deteriorating facilities. On May 25, 2010, St. Mary’s celebrated its final Mass, ending a legacy that began in 1867. Although the interior liturgical furnishings have been removed from the Church, it does retain its interior architectural decoration such as windows, murals, stencils and paintings.

St. Mary's Inside 2010

Inside of St. Mary’s (circa 2010)

Through a local community effort in conjunction with the Friends of St. Mary’s, an extensive renovation and restoration of the church and the entire block is currently underway. The restoration will revive the St. Mary’s campus into Steeple Square and kindle a resurgence of the Washington Neighborhood. Please see the Steeple Square website for further information on the restoration project. Click here for a video discussing the history and architecture of St. Mary’s.

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Architect of the Month: John Mullany, July 2016

Architect of the Month: John Mullany, July 2016

Heritage Works is excited to announce its “Architect of the Month” feature.  For the next twelve months, we will showcase a different architect on our website and all of our social media outlets. Each featured architect is noted as contributing a prominent and lasting legacy to the landscape of the Dubuque area. These monthly postings offer the public an opportunity to learn more about Dubuque architecture, preservation, and the efforts to maintain our unique treasures. It is likely that you have traveled the streets of downtown Dubuque and noticed a unique building or an interesting ornate detail of a building and wanted to learn more. Hopefully our highlighted architects and their unique landmarks will provide a context for your next stroll through downtown Dubuque. Follow along with us as we explore the rich architectural landscape of Dubuque through the various architects that built these landmarks nestled between the bluffs and the Mississippi River.

Heritage Works is proud to showcase the July Architect of the Month, John Mullany, architect of St. Raphael’s Cathedral, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, New Melleray Abbey Monastery, and the Town Clock.

 

John Mullany (1813 – 1884), is considered one of Dubuque’s finest architects with his distinctive use of Gothic Revival style of architecture. The Gothic Revival style is part of the mid-19th century picturesque and Romantic Movement in architecture, reflecting the public’s taste for buildings inspired by medieval design. The most commonly identifiable feature of the Gothic Revival style is the pointed arch, used for windows, doors, and decorative elements like porches, dormers, or roof gables. Gothic Revival came to America from England, particularly through church architects who were strongly influenced by popular architects, such as, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. Pugin promoted the idea that a Gothic style church was the only suitable structure for Christian worship.  He was the architect of many Gothic Revival English and Irish churches of the mid-nineteenth century.

Mullany was born on July 30, 1813 in Cahir, County Tipperary in Ireland. Mullany’s father was an architect/builder, so it was natural that Mullany grew to excel in the trade. Perhaps most influential to Mullany’s life as an architect came in 1840 when he and his wife moved to England where he worked and studied under Augustus Pugin for approximately four years. Pugin’s Gothic Revival influence is quite evident in Mullany’s buildings in Dubuque, (St. Mary’s, St. Raphael’s Cathedral, and New Melleray Abbey). Mullany immigrated to the United States in 1847 and moved to Dubuque, Iowa in 1857, initially joining the Leeman and Keenan firm of building. Of Mullany’s three known surviving Gothic Revival structures in Dubuque, St. Mary’s is Mullany’s masterwork; his best example of the Gothic Revival style and Augustus Pugin’s influence on the design.
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A Glass Act in Former Dubuque Church

A Glass Act in Former Dubuque Church

Work on stained-glass panels is part of the transformation of the historic St. Mary’s Church campus into apartments, a community center and more.

Andi Exo watched intently Wednesday as John Clark, of Chicago’s Restoric LLC, removed saddle bars from a stained-glass window panel, flooding light into St. Mary’s Church through a gaping hole where a depiction of the saint once shone.

“It’s been amazing,” said Exo, a Restoric employee who flew in from Philadelphia to take part in the stained glass restoration. “The church is beautiful and the windows are irreplaceable. We’re trying to be really careful. It’s a little nerve-racking.”

Across the church, Mark Radina, with Radina Glass Studio in Aurora, Ill., and Neal Vogel, with Restoric LLC in Chicago, gingerly worked on scaffolding to remove another stained-glass panel depicting Mary’s life.

“To work on (Munich-style) Zettler stained glass like this has been incredible,” said Roseanne Ghazarian, a graduate student in historic preservation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Unlike other stained-glass panels with smaller pieces of colored glass held in a leaded framework, Munich-style panels are pieces of colored glass with detailed paintings on the surface.

“It’s not every day that you get to work on something of this level of quality,” Clark said. “And the setting is just absolutely beautiful.”

The parish was closed by the Dubuque Archdiocese in 2010, ending 150 years of worship at the German-Catholic church.

Wednesday’s work marked part of a restoration effort by The Friends of St. Mary’s, a coalition of business and community leaders who last year announced plans to transform the historic campus into apartments, a community center and office, retail and green space.

Dubbed Steeple Square, the project lacks a definitive time line and price tag. However, plans are being finalized to convert the Jackson Street school into 12 two- and three-bedroom apartments, according to historic-preservation consultant Duane Hagerty.

“We are raising money to start that project, hopefully, either by the end of the year or early next year,” said Hagerty, the CEO of Heritage Works. “There would be opportunities for all levels of income to live in that building, including some market-rate apartments, but we are not entirely sure what that makeup will be.”

Hagerty hopes to begin repairs on the church’s steeple by the end of this year or early next year, and will be raising money to complete that project.

The nonprofit organization also received a grant from the Dubuque Racing Association for interior repairs and upgrades to make church bathrooms and an entrance accessible for people with disabilities. Hagerty said those repairs should be completed by next spring.

“We already have people showing an interest in having their wedding here next summer and should be ready to do that once we get all of this interior work done,” he said.

Project manager John Gronen, of Gronen Restoration, said he anticipated an announcement in coming weeks with more details and the launch of a public fundraising campaign.

Heritage Works enlisted the help of Four Mounds Foundation and stained-glass conservators to bring in interns, apprentices, graduate students and high school students, using the restoration project to provide vocational training in historic preservation and building trades.

As a result, the nonprofit organization cut what was nearly an $80,000 price tag to replace the two large Gothic windows by more than half, according to Marketing and Operations Manager Rachel Wilberding.

Among the workers was Jacob Stele, 19, of Dubuque. A graduate of the Alternative Learning Center, Stele said he intends to pursue a career in construction.

He said he enjoyed learning the church’s history while helping restore its luster and earning certification in stained-glass removal and restoration from Northeast Iowa Community College in the process.

“People like Eagle Window and Door eat that up,” he said. “It’s just something helpful for right now because I don’t know what I want to do.”

Chris Olson, executive director of the Four Mounds Foundation, plans to use the church project to build a local “pool of talent” trained in historic restoration.

“We have such a wealth of historic buildings in our community, but the knowledge and skills base (for historic preservation) is fairly small,” Olson said.

Restoration work will continue through Monday.

BY THOMAS J. BARTON

As published in Dubuque Telegraph Herald. View article here.