The Original St. Patrick’s Church (1853-1946)

On a bittersweet day in June 1946, the old St. Patrick’s Church was torn down. To many of the older St. Patrick parishioners, this was where they were baptised and married. In its 93 years, the building had served its parishioners well, but was replaced in 1922 by the Church that still stands today. Soon after the parish moved over to the new building, the old church was left vacant. Removing the old structure wasn’t taken likely. Bishop Boylan, Father O’Roarke, St. Patrick’s Church leader, and local trustees had met to discuss the fate of the old structure. They found that demolition was the best course of action as the building didn’t meet the needs of the congregation anymore.

Picture of the old St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.
Courtesy of McHenry 1836-1986: A Proud Past And A Progressive Future.

The St. Patrick Parish was founded by Rev. M. St. Palais in 1840. The mainly Irish-born parishioners had organized and met in each other’s homes for religious services. However, in the early 1850s a large influx of people, mainly from Kilkenny Ireland, joined the community. With the new population, it was too impractical to use private homes and St. Patrick’s Church was built in 1853. It was described as a little brick church on the corner of Court and Washington Streets at a cost of $700. In 1872, Father Peter Birch led the Church in its first renovation that enlarged the structure, as well as making it much more aesthetically pleasing. It was constructed in Gothic Style architecture with light colored bricks giving the Church a look that was beautiful and impressive. St. Patrick’s also had a nice organ and wonderful stained glass windows. It was noted that the structure would even be the pride of a great city like Chicago. This renovation cost about $2000.

1922 Sanborn Map of St. Patrick’s Church. Note the Rectory in the lower left corner.

Almost ten years later in 1883, repairs and an expanding population necessitated the Church’s second renovation.  This time, Rev. Father O’Neil skillfully led the work. Originally, the building was 72 feet long, with the new renovation adding a 16 x 44 feet section with a 8 x 20 recess for the alter. In the new sections were 8’ x 16’ French-made stained glass windows, costing about $146 apiece. Each of the new windows also featured intricate emblems at the top. Also included, was an impressive tower toward the front of the building. The outside and inside of the Church were given a new coat of paint. The interior woodwork was grained in ash & walnut and the 18 foot tall ceilings were frescoed. All told the renovation cost about $3000.  In 1885, there were about 75 families who were members of the church, which was listed as being able to seat 300 people. Some other small improvements were made in 1900, which included large redwood doors that led to the vestry. Also, two interesting frescoes were added near the altar, one of two angels and another of a heart and cross.

1933 Sanborn Map of St. Patrick’s Church. Note the former church in the right hand side listed as vacant.

By 1921, there were 480 people who were in the parish and the church and its property was valued at $15,000. However, with so many people, Father M.J. McEvoy and other church leaders felt it was time to build a new church. On August 13, 1922, the cornerstone for the new church was laid and in October, the new church was ready for Sunday service. With the exception of rare use, the old church sat vacant. With no reason for upkeep, the once proud floors and ceiling became dilapidated. Also, many of the pretty stained glass windows broke, which led to birds flying in and out of the building freely. Ultimately, it was in such poor shape that many feared that the city might condemn the building, which led to its being razed. After it was taken down, the land was leveled and added to the St. Patrick’s Cemetery. Even after the building was long removed, by giving its land to its parishioners, the old church still found a way to serve its people.


“93 Year Old Church Razed.” The McHenry Plaindealer. 20 June 1946: 1. Web. 16 July 2019.

“His New Home Ready.” The McHenry Plaindealer. 14 Sep 1899: 1. Web. 16 July 2019.

“The Roman Catholic Church At Johnsburg.” The Woodstock Sentinel. 29 Aug 1872: 3. Web. 16 July 2019.

“Improvements of St. Patrick’s Church.” The McHenry Plaindealer. 15 Nov 1900: 1. Web. 16 July 2019.

“From Out of the Past: Something About The Early Catholic Settlers.” The McHenry Plaindealer. 10 May 1900: 1. Web. 16 July 2019.

“A Valuable Paper.” The Woodstock Sentinel. 3 May 1900: 1. Web. 16 July 2019.

History of McHenry County, Illinois. Chicago: Munsell Pub., 1922.

Nye, Lowell Albert. McHenry County, Illinois, 1832-1968. Woodstock, IL: McHenry County Board of Supervisors, 1968. Print.

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