The cornerstone of this church was laid on June 28th, 1885. It was designed by Chicago architect Casper Mehler and built primarily by local labor under Mathias Schnell. A history of the church from the Peoria Public Library can be found here.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (1917):
Catholicism in this region dates from the days of Father Marquette, who rested at the Indian village of Peoria on his voyage up the Illinois River in 1673. Opposite the present site of the episcopal city, La Salle and Tonti in 1680 built Fort Crèvecoeur, in which Mass was celebrated and the Gospel preached by the Recollect Fathers, Gabriel Ribourdi, Zenobius Membré, and Louis Hennepin. With some breaks in the succession, the line of missionaries extends to within a short period of the founding of modern Peoria. In 1839 Father Reho, an Italian, visited Peoria, remaining long enough to build the old stone church in Kickapoo, a small town twelve miles distant. St. Mary's, the first Catholic church in the city proper, was erected by Father John A. Drew in 1846. Among his successors was the poet, Rev. Abram J. Ryan.Peoria is named after the Peouarea Tribe, one of the five tribes of the Algonquin Illinois Confederacy.
Many of the early Irish immigrants came to work on the Illinois and Michigan canal; owing to the failure of the contracting company, they received their pay in land scrip instead of cash, and were thus forced to settle upon hitherto untilled farm-land. These Irish farmers, with the Germans who began to arrive a little later, were the pioneer Catholics whose descendants now constitute the strength of the Church. In more recent years Poles, Slavonians, Clovenians, Croatians, Lithuanians, and Italians have come in considerable numbers to work in the coal mines...
From the Public Library's history:
The building was to be in the Gothic Style and dominate the area. The two spires climb two hundred feet from the sidewalk and the towers are massive, reaching a height of 76 feet. Fourteen by twenty-eight foot massive doors would adorn the main part of the church, which would be 85 by 76 feet in dimension. Since that glorious day the mighty Saint Mary Cathedral has been a beacon to visitors and the symbol of a city that has always been a wonderful place to raise a family. The church, because of the stately trees and the park like setting is even more beautiful than it was way back there in 1885.
Memorial plaque to the first Bishop of the Dioecesis Peoriensis, J.L. Spalding.
From the Catholic Encyclopedia article:
Rt. Rev. John Lancaster Spalding was consecrated first Bishop of Peoria, 1 May, 1877. Born of the distinguished Spalding family, in Lebanon, Kentucky, in 1840, and educated at Bardstown, Mount St. Mary's, Emmittsburg, Louvain, and Rome, his career as paster in Louisville, Kentucky, as orator, and as author had been marked by signal successes. The promise of his earlier life was more than fulfilled by the long years of his episcopate. Besides creating a new spirit in the Catholic life of the diocese, which found expression in new churches, schools, and institutions of education and charity, he sought fields of larger efforts for his zeal. He laboured earnestly in the cause of Catholic colonization in the West. He preached the truths of life to an ever-increasing and deeply appreciative audience of American people. He ranks high among the educators of the country. The Catholic University of America owes its origin largely to his zeal. Spalding Institute, Peoria, a Catholic school for boys, built and equipped by his generosity, is another monument to his abiding faith in education. His writings are assured of permanent use and admiration by future generations. At the height of his usefulness he was stricken with paralysis on 6 Jan., 1905, and resigned the see, 11 Sept., 1908, residing in Peoria as Archbishop of Scitopolis, to which honour he was raised in 1909.
A little shrine to Mary, off of the parking lot.
Alas, these photos were taken in the evening, and the church was locked, so I was unable to take photos of the interior.
Cathedral Rectory, Bishop's Residence, Diocesan Chancery; located next to the Cathedral.
Peoria is one of six Latin Rite dioceses in the State of Illinois, and part of its territory was taken from the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. There are over 180 parishes in this diocese. The most popular patrons of parish churches here include Our Lady, with many under her title of the Immaculate Conception; the Sacred Heart of Jesus; Saint Joseph, foster-father of Our Lord; and Saint Patrick. The Jesuit missionaries of the 17th century had a great devotion to Our Lady and her Immaculate Conception, and so this title is found throughout the historically French colonial Mississippi Valley region in great numbers.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Servant of God, was ordained in here in 1919, and the cause of his canonization was opened by Bishop Daniel Jenky, C.S.C., the current Bishop of Peoria.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta twice visited here, and a statue of her is found between the Rectory and Cathedral.
Near the Cathedral are various Diocesan buildings. This is the Spalding Institute, which was once a high school, and is now a part of the pastoral center. It dates from 1899, and its history can be found here.
A view of the Cathedral from across the Illinois River.
Peoria is famously the most typical of Midwestern cities, and offers many surprises to ignorant visitors such as myself.
607 Northeast Madison Avenue
Peoria, Illinois 61603