Fair in 1896 helped build church

Last year in “More Good News,” we published an article featuring memories of the annual Italian Festival. Come to find out, possibly the first festival took place at the end of the 19th century. The following article was published in the Utica Sunday Journal, May 24, 1896.

Italian Church Fair Opens Tomorrow Evening

The fair for the benefit of the new Italian church will open tomorrow evening at the old Knights of Pythias Hall on Genesee Street, near the bridge.

The Italians have banded together under the leadership of Rev. A. Castelli and are intending to complete a church, the foundation of which has already been laid. The endeavor is a worthy one, as there is no church in the city which these people can call their own. The people of St. John’s congregation are helping as much as possible.

Tomorrow evening the Italian Benevolent society, in full uniform, will parade and the St. Vincent’s Drum Corps will lead them. Red fire will be burned and they will finish their marching in front of the hall. Rev. James M. Murphy will be in attendance and will introduce Charles A. Miller, who will deliver the opening address.

The hall is prettily decorated in red, white, blue, yellow and green bunting and there are flowers in profusion. Considerable decorative ability has been expended on the booths. A different entertainment will be given every evening during the fair, which will add to the enjoyment of those who attend. Considering that this is the first call of its kind made by the Italians to help them to better citizenship, it should be liberally patronized.

The church is to be built on Catherine Street between Mohawk Street and Third Avenue. The main part of the church is to be 200 feet long by 48 feet wide, with two projections at the rear, making the church at that part 80 feet wide. The foundation, which is almost completed, is of Higginsville blue stone, the walls of which are to be four feet above the grade and to be of rock faced ashlar work. The water table is to be of Indiana limestone, while above the water table the church will be of brick, with Indiana limestone trimmings. The roof will be of slate and there is one tower on Catherine Street, at the southeast corner of the front of the church to be 100 feet high with a belfry for bells. On the top will be a cross eight feet high.

The church is to have three entrances on Catherine Street, opening into a large vestibule 11 feet wide; two entrances in front leading to the basement; one side entrance into the sacristy and one in the rear of the church, in the passage back of the altar. All the windows of the main part of the church are to have stained glass with Catholic emblems represented. The large window in the front is to have a stained glass figure representing the Virgin of Mount Carmel. From the vestibule there are three corresponding doors opening into the church proper.

The church will seat 600 people. An oak staircase in the tower leads to a gallery and choir loft, with a seating capacity of 150 people. The basement, besides the furnaces and coal room, is to have a large room for society meetings, which is to be finished in North Carolina pine. The sanctuary of the church is to be 20 by 22 feet. There will be a sacristy on both sides of the sanctuary, 11 by 20 feet each. The ceiling of the church is to be 90 feet from the floor, with a dome forming a cross.

The finish of the inside of the church is to be of oak, cypress and North Carolina pine. The ceilings are to be of patent plaster. All the inside is to be natural wood finish. The floors are to be of maple. The church is to be heated by furnace and will be well ventilated.