John T. Comes

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St. Fidelis Church Victoria, KS, John T. Comès, architect

John T. Comès (1873–1922) was a Pittsburgh-based architect best remembered for his many buildings for Roman Catholic communities throughout the United States.

Childhood and architectural education[edit]

He was born into a family of artisans in Larochette, Luxembourg, on January 29, 1873. His father, John Richard, was an expert woodcarver, and his father’s twin brother, John Adam, was a builder by trade. The family came to America when Comès was eight years old. His early education occurred in St. Paul, Minnesota, but he earned a master of science in architecture from Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Architectural practice[edit]

He came to Pittsburgh around 1897, and worked for several architectural firms before beginning his own. With the firm of Rutan and Russell, he built St. Augustine Church on 37th Street in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh. With the firm of Beezer Brothers, he built St. John the Baptist Church (now the Church Brew Works and Restaurant) also in Lawrenceville; both of these churches have been named Historic Landmarks by Pittsburgh’s History and Landmarks Foundation. At least three of his churches are on the National Historic Registry: St. Fidelis Church in Victoria, Kansas, St. Luke’s Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, and St. Gertrude Church in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania. Comès worked for nearly 20 years under his own name before adding two partners to form the firm of Comes, Perry and McMullen in 1921, just a year before his death.

Comès was involved in the design of four cathedrals, all of which were built in the last years of his life. He is given sole credit for the design of Christ the King Cathedral in Atlanta. He did the original design for Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral in Toledo, Ohio, but he died during construction and the final design is attributed to his colleague, William R. Perry. The firm of Comès, Perry and McMullen is credited with the design of the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, but the building was completed five years after his death. Comès is also credited with the interior design of the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City, which was designed by Carl M. Neuhausen and Bernard O. Mecklenburg.

Comès was author of the 1920 book Catholic Art and Architecture, which featured many of his designs.

On Sunday, January 27, 2013, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) dedicated a state historical marker honoring John T. Comès and recognizing his accomplishments in church architecture. The marker is planted in front of the Saint Agnes Center of Carlow University, in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. Saint Agnes Church was designed by Comès and opened as a parish church in 1917.

Selected works[edit]

under his own name:

with Comes, Perry and McMullen:

References[edit]