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Historic St. Patrick's Church

Essay and photographs by Gregory Johnson, 2007
Revised by Tamara Jones, 2012


Historic St. Patrick's Church in Toledo, Ohio has long been a staple of the skyline of Toledo. The church, with its roots dating back to the original St. Patrick's Church built in 1863, concluded a long renovation project with the Inaugural Organ Concert on October 23, 2007.

Flags at the Historic St. Patrick's Church

This is a brief history, in both pictures and text, of the creation and renovation of the Historic St. Patrick's Church of Toledo. Archival footage courtesy of The Historic Church of St. Patrick's and the Toledo Lucas County Public Library. Special thanks to Mike Cora of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library and Deacon Thomas Carone of Historic Church of St. Patrick.

Early History of St. Patrick's Church

First Father of St. Patrick's Church, Father Edward Hannin (1826 – 1902)

The first pastor of St. Patrick's Church, Edward Hannin (Americanized version of the family name Hannan), was born into a relatively prosperous family in Emlanaughtan in 1826. Bartolomew and Margaret Tighe Hannin would have a total of eight children, although the family would also soon incorporate several of the local children through the school that they opened on their land.

Young Edward completed his early education at home and at the age of 19 set off for Dublin to complete coursework required for government employment. In 1846, Hannin took employ as a government engineer and superintendent of public works in Dublin. After a brief period in Liverpool working for a commercial house, Hannin, with the blessing of his parents, immigrated to the United States during the potato famine of 1849. He was 22 years old.

In America, Hannin soon became interested in working for the Catholic Church. After completing his studies in Greek and Latin, Edward entered the St. Mary's Theological Seminary in Cleveland under the sponsorship of Bishop Amadeus Rappe. Hannin joined the priesthood, after three years of study, in June of 1856.

Father Hannin's first appointment was as Assistant Priest to St. John's Cathedral in Cleveland. The following year, Hannin also took on the responsibilities of being the Secretary to the Bishop. After nearly six years of service, Father Hannin was given the chance to organize a parish in Toledo.

The Irish in Toledo in 1862 were a rough group, as most were employed as laborers building the canals and railroads that spurred the city’s boom. Along with this hard labor came even harder living, with saloons and other elements growing nearly as quickly as the population.

In April of 1862, Hannin set out to choose the site for his new parish, purchasing lots on the "highest point in the city" to build his new church. The land that would eventually become St. Patrick's Church was purchased in May of 1862 in an area of Toledo that would later be known as "Irish Hill," at the corner of Lafayette and Thirteenth Streets.

The cornerstone of the church was placed on July 4, 1862 by Bishop Luers of Fort Wayne, IN. The construction was quick, as the first mass was given on February 1, 1863. The final costs of construction of the first church, as well as its organ and church bell, would come to approximately $27,000.

Toledo in 1862

Panoramic view of Toledo in the 1860sTo properly understand the hardships faced by Rev. Hannin and his young parish, one must know what Toledo was like in 1862.

When St. Patrick's held its first service in 1863, the city of Toledo was only three decades old and undergoing the usual growing pains of a young city. The city was looking to make its mark in the young nation as a transportation hub for the new northwestern portion of the country. The Middle Grounds area, land reclaimed from swampland between the Maumee River and Swan Creek, would become the railroad hub of the small city. By 1863, this area was home to the Island House Hotel, a stylish hotel built in 1856, as well as multiple grain elevators and most of the freight transfer in Toledo.

The city’s population had grown from 2,000 residents in 1835 to almost 14,000 in 1860. With this boom in growth came a need for infrastructure: the first sewer system (1848), a volunteer fire station (1837), Board of Education (1849), high school (1850), a volunteer police force (1852), gas lighting (1857), the Cherry St. Bridge (1865), horse drawn trolleys (1862), and telegraph service (1848). This growth and later industrialization would only continue following the Civil War.

Churches also boomed during this time period with the mission of trying to keep new male immigrants to the city out of saloons and taverns. The first church in Toledo, First Presbyterian (later congregational) was opened in 1833, with the first Catholic Church in Toledo, St. Francis de Sales on Cherry St., opening in 1841. Other Catholic Churches, such as St. Mary's German Catholic and St. Joseph's French Catholic followed, with St. Patrick's following in 1863. 

The First St. Patrick's Church

Church of the Immaculate Conception, AKA the Ballymote ChurchDrawing of the Church of the Immaculate conceptionIn 1864, as Father Edward Hannin was dedicating and beginning to lead St. Patrick's Church, his brother, Father Luke Hannin, was doing the same at the Church of the Immaculate Conception. The construction of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, sometimes called the Ballymote Church, began in 1857 and finished in 1864. The construction and dedication of the church was a family affair, as it was designed and built by another relative, Canon Denis Tighe.

In keeping with his upbringing, Edward Hannin wanted to institute an education system within his parish as soon as possible. Based on this desire, St. Patrick's Academy, a grade and two-year high school, was built in 1865. Father Hannin would also build a cemetery for the deceased of the parish, St. Patrick's Cemetery, and begin planning for a large diocese-wide Catholic Cemetery, which would become Cavalry Cemetery. Later innovative projects included the St. Patrick's Institute, a place where young men could gather in order to stay out of trouble with the law.

During the first 40 years of St. Patrick's, Hannin spent only a small amount of time away from the Church. With the resignation of Bishop Rappe in 1870, Father Hannin returned to Cleveland in the position of Administrator of the Dioceses until a new Bishop, Richard Gilmore, could be commissioned. In 1872, Hannin returned to St. Patrick's. After more than a decade of service, it seemed inappropriate for anyone else to lead the parish while he was physically able to. Recognizing this, Bishop Gilmore named Father Hannin Irremovable Rector of St. Patrick's Church in 1899.

Construction of the Current St. Patrick's Church (1892-1902)

The first incarnation of St. Patrick's Church, which was built in less than one year, began to show its age quickly. By 1891, after only 28 years of service, Rev. Hannin and the rest of the church deemed the church to be unsafe and decided to begin constructing a new building. Before demolition, the parishioners moved the organ, pews, and important artifacts out of the church and into the recently constructed parish hall. The first St. Patrick's Church was razed to make way for the current church that was built on the same lot.

Cornerstone of the new St. Patrick's Church, laid on July 15, 1894In May of 1892, the foundation for the new church was begun. Towards the end of 1892 and throughout 1893 and 1894, Hannin and the rest of the church leaders began the process of securing bids and selecting companies to work on the church.

The cornerstone of the new St. Patrick's Church was laid on July 15, 1894. The ceremony, which included a sermon by Rev. John Foley from Detroit, was conducted by Bishop Horstmann.

Based upon his reputation for excellent Roman Catholic churches, including past work on St. Michael's Church in Rochester, NY (the basis of St. Patrick's design), St. Mary's in Buffalo, NY, St. Joseph's in Pittsburgh, and Iglesia San Miguel (St. Michael's) in Cleveland, Adolphus Druiding of Chicago was selected to design the new church. Many of the churches built by Druiding, most in the classic gothic architecture of St. Patrick's, remain today. Druiding, known for his classical architectural ideas, was also known for his aggressive business style, which is evident in the letter between Druiding and Rev. Hannin during the planning, construction, and post construction period of St. Patrick's. A complete collection of the correspondence, contractor bids, contracts, and fundraising advertisements can be found at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library.

The construction of St. Patrick's spanned nearly a decade, with the first Mass celebrated on Christmas Day, 1900. Even though the physical form of the church was nearly complete, the planning for the dedication was just beginning. Rev. Hannin wanted Archbishop Ireland of St. Paul, Minnesota to give the dedication sermon.

One of two gargoyles high above on the front facade of the churchArchbishop Ireland, an incredibly busy man, originally had to turn down Rev. Hannin, stating that Hannin should look for a pastor closer to Toledo or from the East Coast. Undeterred, Hannin launched a massive campaign to convince Archbishop Ireland to give the dedication sermon. This campaign included letters of support from Mayor Samuel Jones, Judge J.A. Barber of the Common Pleas Court, J.W. Bloomer of the Toledo News, Robinson Locke of the Toledo Blade, Judges Hann, Parker and Lynn of the Circuit Court of Ohio, P.H. Dowling of Toledo Transfer Company, H.P. Crouse of the Toledo Times, and various Bishops from throughout Ohio. Hannin, in his letter to Archbishop Ireland, described the newly completed church as a "gem of gothic architecture” and one of the “most beautiful churches east of Chicago, if second to any it is only to St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York." In another letter, Mayor Samuel Jones described Rev. Hannin as a "monument to faithful and devoted life."

After seeing the outpouring of support for Rev. Hannin and St. Patrick's from all of the major figures of Toledo, Archbishop Ireland agreed to give the dedication sermon.

The official dedication of St. Patrick's occurred on April 14, 1901. The ceremony was attended by more than 100 religious leaders from all parts of the United States, including Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore; Archbishop Martinelli, Papal Delegate at Washington; President of Washington University, Monsignor Conaty; the Bishops of Wheeling W.V.; Scranton, Pittsburgh, and  Harrisburg, PA; and clergy members from Philadelphia and Brooklyn.

Passing of Father Hannin

A brick in the Memorial Garden with Father Hannin's name inscribed With the completion of his great church, Father Hannin began tending to the other needs of his parish. Knowing of his worsening health, various friends began the work of raising money to allow him to return to Ireland to rest. Hannin politely refused and never left his parish.

Father Hannin’s health began to fail during the final phases of the church’s construction. On November 7, 1902, he became ill during Mass at St. Patrick's. He was able to finish with the assistance of the altar boys who has been serving, but it would be his final Mass. Father Hannin passed away on the afternoon of December 14, 1902, immediately after receiving final absolution from Father Leahy.

After an ornate funeral service honoring his life and service, Father Edward Hannin was laid to rest in a mausoleum in Cavalry Cemetery. He was later interred in the family plot in the same cemetery.

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