Peoria County, Illinois Genealogy Trails

Early St. Mary's Cathedral History

(Precise source of this material is unknown, but it is from the collection of historian L. Sidney Eslinger, and is on letterhead of "Archives of St. Mary's Cathedral, 607 A. N. E. Madison St., Peoria, Illinois.  Facts were extracted for this webpage. Not all details or events have been included)


June 16, 1883 - First St. Mary's was built

July 4, 1852 - First services were held

June 19, 1883 - Lot purchased on the 600 block of Madison, corner of Green, by Bishop J. L. Spalding for $6,500.

June 30, 1883 - Adjoining lots purchased for $13,500.

September 27, 1884 - Plans for a new cathedral submitted by Casper Mehler, a Peoria architect.

March 21, 1885 - Bishop Spalding named Matthias Schnell, of Rock Island, as contractor.    Superintendent architect was W. A. Corwine, Lincoln, Nebraska.  Casper Mehler interpreted the plans.  Brick, stone work, concrete and masonry was subcontracted to John A. Green from Stone City, Iowa.

April 22, 1885 - Ground broken.

May 15, 1885 - First stone laid.

June 28, 1885 - Bishop Spalding laid the corner stone.

October 1, 1885 - Fourteen Barre Vermont Granite columns, measuring 28' 8" tall and 20" diameter were installed by the Peoria Marble Works.

Dec. 29, 1885 - Crosses were made for the cathedral towers by H. Sandmeyer Hardward Co., from Peoria.  These crosses were in place until August 1955.

May 29, 1886 - Two spires under construction.

1886 - Bishop J. L. Spalding was considered the builder of the cathedral, but it was his brother, Fr. Benedict J. Spalding who directed and supervised the actual work.  The latter became ill and left Peoria, slowing down the construction.  He died in Lebanon, Kentucky the following year.  Ft. Charles Francis Xavier O'Neill took over both as supervisor of construction and pastor of the church.

1888 - Sacristy completed.

October 26, 1888 - Installation of first set of stained glass windows.  Second set was installed October of 1913, and they were replaced on July 1, 1939.

1888 - Valentine Gramer, of Chicago, created and installed the Altars; painting of Christ's crucifixion installed (dated 1873; removed in 1953 and again installed ~1986).  The sanctuary window was a reproduction of Raphael's Madonna made in Munich.

March 25, 1889 - pews installed, as well as wain-scoting, which was from the original structure.
May 14, 1889 - Final services in old building

May 15, 1889 - New Cathedral was dedicated precisely 4 years after first stone laid.

1898 - The bell from the cathedral on Jefferson St. was moved to the south tower.  This bell was made in Troy, N. Y., 1854.

May 1, 1902 - Episcopal Consecration of Bishop Spalding's 25th Jubilee, and the cathedral was solemnly consecrated.

1906 - Mrs. Mary Henebery donated marble communion rail, steps, and angels in memory of Matthew and Nicholas Henebery.

1913 - Cathedral redecorated by Bishop E. M. Dunne.

January 1931 - "Thorough" renovation to begin on Easter Monday 1931.

1933 - Planning begun for new confessionals.

Feb. 1932 - New ceiling installed, removed in 1986.

January 1934 - Renovation  of sanctuary beings. 

December 1935 - Mr. H. Dox donated a cooling system, $4,000, which was in operation until 1986.

1937 - The church had no debt. 

February 3, 1937 - Organ was blessed and dedicated to the memory of Bishops Spalding and Dunne.  The organ was built at Wicks factory in Highland, Illinois.

October 1937 - Wilbur Burnham designed and created Two Rose windows, $4,920.










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