Next year we’ll be celebrating Emmanuel Louis Masqueray‘s 150th birthday — at least, we should be.
He’s responsible for some seriously notable midwest ecclesiastical architecture. The man designed the Cathedral of St. Paul; the Basilica of St. Mary; St. Louis King of France; the Thomas Aquinas Chapel at the University of St. Thomas and the university’s Ireland Hall; Keane Hall at Loras College in Dubuque, IA; Holy Redeemer in Marshall, MN; St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Sioux Falls, SD; and Immaculate Conception in Wichita, Kan., — just to name a few.
Yet, he’s, at best, a footnote in the tomes of American architects.
And I cannot figure out why.
I’m pursuing a master’s degree in Art History from the aforementioned University of St. Thomas, and my thesis focuses on Archbishop John Ireland‘s patronage of the Cathedral and the Basilica. This includes the choice of Masqueray as the architect and his Ecole des Beaux Arts-influenced design.
But digging stuff up on the man is proving frustrating. Apparently, Masqueray and Ireland were in personal contact almost daily, so little written communication between the men existed. And I’ve heard rumors that there once WAS an archive of Masqueray’s papers held by the Catholic Historical Society of St. Paul, but they have mysteriously disappeared.
To make matters worse, efforts to locate Eric Hansen, the author of The Cathedral of St. Paul: An Architectural Biography, which the Cathedral published in 1990, have also failed (trust me, the Cathedral’s tried). Hansen may be the only one who can give me more insight into an intriguing fact he added to the first page in his book: That Archbishop Ireland kept scrapbooks with ideas for a Cathedral long before he actually commissioned it.
FASCINATING! Now, where the heck are they?
They’re NOT in the Cathedral archives, or the archdiocesan archives — at least not obviously. I spent an hour last week going through five boxes absolutely crammed with Ireland’s scrapbooks. He kept newspaper clippings on every topic of importance to him — the Catholic church in America, the temperance movement, the current pope, the church in the Philippines, the plight of Irish immigrants — and they’re absolutely incredible. With each box I opened and each book I wedged out, I deeply hoped I would open the pages to a clipped photo of an old French church or the Baltimore Cathedral. And with each turn of the page I grew more and more disappointed.
I know research shouldn’t be easy, but dead-ends are getting a bit old.
Somewhere out there, somebody has seen these scrapbooks, and someone else knows where Masqueray’s letters are. I’m counting on Providence to make our paths cross.