French born architect, Emile Uhlrich emigrated to the United States in 1891. He settled into the ever-growing city of Cleveland, OH. Uhlrich had been educated at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, France. Beaux Arts style (or "fine art style") stressed order, symmetry, formal design, grandiosity, and elaborate ornamentation.
In 1899, Uhlrich entered into a partnership with fellow architect Godfrey Fugman. The partnership lasted until 1904. It was generally believed at the time that Fugman handled more of the engineering and business side of projects, while Uhlrich was the creative genius.
In 1903, St. Procop's Church was dedicated. The Catholic Universe Bulletin called it "one of the finest church buildings in the city." The architects were getting rave reviews for setting a new standard in local church design. What exactly does "new standard" mean?
Uhlrich and Fugman employed the newest technologies and techniques of the time. They engineered a structural frame of steel trusses which allowed for a massive, wide-open interior space that was unobstructed by columns. They cleverly hid indirect lighting throughout the interior, and slightly raked (sloped) the floor from the vestibule to the main altar. Decoration became more ornate as you got closer to the altar -- thus drawing the eye forward. The new St. Procop's was a highly-designed, highly-functional space ... worthy of being the new standard.
Uhlrich went on to design the breathtaking Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, NY, as well as the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, OH. A list of some of his work was compiled by the Cleveland Landmarks Commission. It can be seen here.
St. Procop's is scheduled to be closed in 2010. It is well worth a visit. The exterior has seen some losses of two front towers and central dome; however, the interior is stunning (murals, windows, altars). The photo of St. Procop's Church (above) is from the Cleveland Memory Project.
St. Procop Church | 3181 W. 41st Street | Cleveland, OH 44109