Prior to 1842 there were very few Catholic families in Syracuse, but their need of religious instruction led to the organization of a church society in that year. In 1844 the society purchased the frame church built by St. Paul's church on the site of the Granger block and removed it to the corner of Madison and Montgomery streets, where a lot had been purchased. In 1848 the building was enlarged and improved. Rev. Michael Haes was the first pastor and continued until his death in 1859. On the 4th of July in that year he was succeeded by the Rev. James A. O'Hara, who labored faithfully and successfully for the congregation more than thirty years, until his death on December 6, 1889. During the administration of Father Haes the congregation grew rapidly and by 1852 had become very numerous, leading in that year to the organization of the Church of St. John the Evangelist, the church edifice for which society was erected in 1854. Father Haes also brought the first Sisters of Charity to Syracuse, and three of them opened a school in the basement of St. Mary's church. The Sisters have now three schools under their charge--the St. Vincent de Paul Orphan Asylum and School, on Madison street, in possession of a brick building which cost $125,000; the Orphan Asylum for Boys, and Home for Old and Infirm People, situated on the Split Rock road, town of Geddes, under the name of the House of Providence. The site for the latter was purchased by Andrew Lynch for Rev. Dr. O'Hara, in 1867, who organized an Industrial School for Boys, under management of the Christian Brothers; two years later this undertaking was abandoned. In 1872 Thomas McCarthy, Patrick Phelan and Timothy Sullivan, of the General Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, re-established the institution under the management of the Sisters of Charity, as a home for old and feeble of both sexes and an orphan asylum for boys. A large building has been erected at a cost of $50,000, to take the place of the old one, and fitted up with all modern improvements. In course of time the growth of St. Mary's congregation made a larger church necessary and Dr. O'Hara purchased the site on the corner of Montgomery and Jefferson streets, consisting of four lots. Here during the succeeding ten years was erected the costliest church structure in the city; it is now complete with exception of the towers and cost $250,000.
Submitted 18 July 1998