Drive to Complete the Cathedral
In 1950, Archbishop Walsh used the occasion
of his fiftieth anniversary of ordination to announce a massive drive
to complete the Cathedral in time for the Diocesan centenary in 1953.
A Cathedral Builders' Association was formed to raise five million
dollars to finance the project. The architectural firm of Paul C.
Reilly of New York was engaged, with heavy construction to be handled
by the George A. Fuller Company, and interior ornamentation by Professor
Gonippo Raggi and Sons of Orange. For Mr. Reilly, the 1950 appointment
marked a return to the Cathedral, where he had worked as a partner
with Ditmars during the earlier stages of construction. For Professor
Raggi the Cathedral commission was the culmination of a career totally
devoted to ecclesiastical art -- a career that found its expression
in several church buildings in the metropolitan area. His association
with the Cathedral project found him not only at the building site,
but also in Rome, where he maintained a shop and supervised several
craftsmen working on his designs for the marble altars and statuary.
Statuary for the chapels in the
Raggi Studio, Rome
Work on the Cathedral's interior was
quite advanced when Archbishop Walsh passed away on June 6, 1952.
With the nave and transept obstructed with scaffolding, it became
necessary to hold the Archbishop's funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral
on Washington Street. Following the Mass, his body was moved to
the Cathedral crypt and laid to rest next to Bishop O'Connor.
Archbishop Boland came on the scene in
1953 and continued giving an Archbishop's enthusiastic support to
the Cathedral effort. Hence, Reilly and Raggi continued on, working
together to create the Cathedral's renowned interior. During this
same period, Reilly also erected the Episcopal residence on Ridge
Street. It was at this time that the sanctuary floor, previously on
two levels, was changed to a single level stage-like surface. Marble
floors were laid throughout the church and heating and ventilating
systems were installed for the first time. The interior was beautifully
appointed with Munich stained glass, hand carved white oak screens,
massive carved limestone screens, and furnishings of Italian marble.