For the first several decades of the city’s existence, the religious needs of Cleveland’s Catholic citizens had been met by only St. Mary on the Flats, a parish that proved remote to many townspeople. In 1847, however, the city received both its own Diocese and a newly appointed Bishop, Louis Amadeus Rappe. Rappe, a native of Pas-de-Calais, France, had by 1840 traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, and had later served pastoral duties along both the Maumee River and the Miami and Erie Canal in northwestern Ohio.
One of Rappe’s fist duties as Bishop of Cleveland was to lay the cornerstone of the planned Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, at Superior Avenue and Erie Street (now East 9th Street), in late 1848. By late 1852, Rappe was able to consecrate the completed Cathedral (only after venturing as far as New York City and France to solicit donations in aid of his relatively poor Diocese).
The Cathedral of 1848-1852 was designed by up-and-coming Midwestern ecclesiastical architect Patrick Charles Keeley in an ornamental French Gothic style. However, little of that original Cathedral remains today within the repeatedly expanded and renovated Cathedral and its surrounding structures.
From 1857 through 1946 many changes occurred: a boys school was added, a major hall and girls school were added, a spire was added, interior and exterior decorations were completed, new stained glass windows were installed, new furnishings were added, the crypt was rebuilt, and a Sisters’ college was added. By the mid-1940s it became apparent that the entire Cathedral complex needed reassessment. There were even discussions to relocate the Cathedral from its East 9th and Superior site.
Instead, in 1948 an even more significant reconstruction and modernization of the Cathedral and its ancillary structures began. Designed by the local architectural firm of Stickle, Kelly and Stickle, a new Cathedral arose around the shell of the old. Towers were altered, and the Cathedral lengthened, with the entire complex being faced in a golden Tennessee ashlar quartzite. With additional refinements in the years since, The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist continues to serve its community of over 1100 members, and the largest Catholic community, as the seat of the Bishop and heart of the Cleveland Diocese.