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Saint Patrick’s Church Bulfinch Award

Saint Patrick’s Church

The John Canning Company received the 2017 Institute of Classical Architecture & Art Bulfinch Award for Historic Preservation on April 29 at the Harvard Club, Boston, for their comprehensive restoration of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.

The preservation and conservation of the architecture, art, and decorative finishes at St. Patrick’s, as originally conceived by prolific church architect Patrick Keely, and were priorities for the Lowell parish.

Also a priority, was making this historic landmark, built by and for Irish immigrants in 1854, relevant to the diverse immigrant community it now serves. Today, the parish offers Mass in five languages, with Hispanic and Vietnamese populations in highest attendance.

John Canning put it this way, “First, our job is to link the past to the present by faithfully preserving and restoring the original art and finishes. But we must also be mindful of the need for a cultural connection to diverse communities today and into the future.”


Over the course of one year, the Canning team of conservators, analysts, artists, decorators, designers, and tradesmen uncovered original colors, decorative patterns, and finishes, conserved 24 murals, restored Stations of the Cross, repaired and stabilized plaster, and conserved the scagliola columns. Canning specialists cleaned and polished the fine-art marble sculptures of saints, angels, and the ornate altar, all carved by Joseph Sibbel whose work can also be found in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City.

“Once we had uncovered the original decoration and determined the best course for conserving the Gustav Kinkelin murals, we were able to advise the parish on how to treat the new spaces,” said company president David Riccio. “The new cry room and confessionals were painted with a wood-grain technique to match the existing hardwood finishes. We also proposed and created new shrines with fine-art murals depicting the Hispanic and Vietnamese Marian apparitions, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Our Lady of La Vang.”

One of the Kinkelin murals depicts Jesus saying goodbye to Mary before his crucifixion. The shared experience of Irish immigrants in the 1800s and today’s immigrants saying goodbye to their mothers was the idea that tied together the three cultural representations of the Virgin Mother.

This is the Canning Company’s third award from the ICAA. In 2013 they received the Bulfinch Award for their work at St Patrick’s Church in Norwalk, Connecticut, and in 2012 they received the Stanford White Award for Excellence in Classical and New Traditional Design for the Basilica, St. John the Evangelist, in Stamford, Connecticut.

In 2004, John Canning was honored with ICAA’s Arthur Ross Award for Artisanship. The national award was in recognition of his work in applied decorative arts and his involvement in the restoration of national architectural landmarks.