McInerney, Michael (1877-1963)

Michael Joseph Vincent McInerney (March 18, 1877-March 3, 1963), architect and designer, was a Benedictine monk and Roman Catholic priest at Belmont Abbey in Gaston County, North Carolina. Beginning with his design for St. Leo Hall (1906) at the Abbey, he developed a nationally important architectural practice that encompassed scores of Catholic churches, schools, hospitals, and other structures. In North Carolina, in addition to his work in Belmont, he planned religious buildings in communities from Asheville to Kinston. Typically built of brick, sometimes in local stone, they combine architectural distinction with the modest size and simple forms suited to the budgets of the state’s small Catholic parishes of the early to mid-20th century.

Born in Lockhaven, Pennsylvania, to Irish immigrant parents, McInerney attended parochial schools in McKeesport and Pittsburgh and worked as an assistant to his father, a stone contractor. At age fifteen, he was accepted as an apprentice architect by W. A. Thomas in Pittsburgh. Augmenting his training with college courses at Duquesne, he advanced quickly and became a junior partner in Thomas’s firm.

In 1900, McInerney moved to North Carolina, intending to enrich his art by studying classics at what is now Belmont Abbey College. Soon after his arrival, a fire destroyed most of the college on May 19, 1900, and proved to be a turning point in his life and work. McInerney volunteered to be architect for the reconstruction of present Robert Lee Stowe Hall, beginning a long career as architect for Catholic buildings across the country. Edified during this project by the Abbey’s Benedictine monks, McInerney joined the monastery in 1902, professed the monastic vows in 1903, and was ordained a priest in 1907.

As a monk-architect, McInerney focused his art almost exclusively on Catholic projects. His designs were primarily institutional—approximately 200 Catholic churches, 27 hospitals, 18 convents or monasteries, 10 gymnasia, and others—but they were particularized and colored by his personal investment in the life and values of monasticism. Exterior ornamentation was usually intrinsic rather than appended; his interiors were characteristically austere. McInerney customarily signed his building with a long-stemmed cross, sometimes in bold relief as at Haid Gymnasium at Belmont, and at other times subtly inscribed in the brickwork, as at Linton Hall Academy near Bristow, Virginia.

In his early work, Father McInerney developed a variation on the German Gothic Revival that acquired the popular designation “American Benedictine” from its frequent use by monasteries. This style’s principal statement is found in his St. Leo Hall at Belmont Abbey College, a structure of imposing beauty and simplicity. Its box shape gains special distinction from the projection of the roof, the texturing of the brickwork, and the shapes and sizes of the windows. This building helped establish the young monk-priest as a leading religious architect. He continued to design buildings at the Abbey and College, including such modest structures as a brick well house as well as more substantial buildings.

The poverty of the Catholic Church in the South required that most of McInerney’s work in the Carolinas centered on small chapels. He also planned health facilities in Charlotte and Asheville for the Sisters of Mercy, also headquartered in Belmont. By the 1920s he had a national clientele, and most of his largest projects were those outside of North Carolina. Occasionally notices of his designs appeared along with those of other architects in the Manufacturers’ Record, where he was typically identified as “Father Michael of Belmont Abbey.”

In the middle period of his architectural career (1930-1945), McInerney shifted his emphasis from brick to stone and from Gothic Revival to a striking conception of Romanesque arches imposed on sturdy, classically simple façccedil;ades. This proved the most prolific and artistically fruitful period of his career. His rectories for St. Benedict (1932) and St. Francis (1934) parishes in Baltimore, for example, were vivid expressions of the maturity and power of his art. Working extensively in Maryland, West Virginia, and the Carolinas, the priest earned architectural fees that kept his abbey and its college solvent during the Great Depression. He also designed chalices, candelabra, sanctuary lamps, pews, and other furnishings as well as grave markers.

McInerney’s final period (1945-1963) reversed his earlier intentions. With a new economy of exterior line, and a taste for flat roofs and squared towers, he emphasized rather than disguised the box form. St. Michael Catholic Church and Rectory (Gastonia, 1957) is characteristic of this period. The most exquisite design of his last years, St. Michael Catholic Church in Wheeling, West Virginia (1952), was untypical of this period, for here McInerney returned to the Gothic aspirations of his earliest days, and created a strikingly unornamented interior whose art and expression proceeded entirely from its structural design, not decorations.

Father McInerney published many articles on church architecture, hospital architecture, the use of stained glass, and other topics. He served on the faculty of Belmont Abbey College from 1903 on, and in summers taught at St. Louis University in Missouri. The Stained Glass Association of America and the North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects granted him honorary memberships. In 1959, St. Vincent College of Pennsylvania awarded McInerney its doctorate (honoris causa) in recognition of his more than five hundred buildings, his “devotion to ecclesiastical art, the sacrifices and labors of the priest and monk, and the economy of church funds [secured through] the endeavors of his artistic and architectural talents.” He is interred in the monastic cemetery at Belmont Abbey.

Editor’s note: McInerney kept no records of his buildings, and the following list of his works was constructed by Dom Paschal Baumstein mostly from archival sources at Belmont Abbey. Baumstein’s research identifies as McInerney’s work several Catholic churches previously featured in published architectural surveys but without attribution to the architect. The list represents all the projects in North Carolina for which Father Baumstein found references, including several for which precise dates, addresses, and statuses have yet to be obtained. Photographs of some of McInerney’s designs may be found in Miriam Miller’s A History of the Early Years of the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Charlotte (1984), and in Paschal Baumstein, The Art of Michael McInerney (1992). The dramatic growth of the Catholic population in North Carolina that began in the late 20th century, due to immigration from northern states and from Latin and South America, has encouraged many parishes to leave or raze the small churches designed by Father McInerny, which served for many years, and to build large new complexes on new sites. Updated information is sought for all properties.

  • Archives of Belmont Abbey, Belmont, North Carolina.
  • Paschal Baumstein, “A Divine Practice,” North Carolina Architect (July-Aug. 1983).
  • Paschal Baumstein, The Art of Michael McInerney (1992).
  • “A Church Should Make People Mindful of God,” Subiaco, Arkansas The Abbey Message, 12.5 (Oct. 1951).
  • Michael McInerney, “Architecture: Church Architecture in Modern Times,” in Catholic Encyclopedia (1936).
  • Michael McInerney, “Architecture and the Small Hospital,” address to the Catholic Hospital Convention, St. Louis, Missouri (1944).
  • Michael McInerney, “Hospital Architecture,” Monograph #232 (1944), reprinted from Hospital Progress: Official Journal of the Catholic Hospital Association of the United States and Canada, December 1943-January 1944.
  • Miriam Miller, A History of the Early Years of the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Charlotte (1984).
  • “Salute to Our Master Builder,” Abbey: News, Views, 1:2 (Spring 1957).
  • Mrs. W.R. Stowe, article on Michael McInerney, published variously in Georgia Bulletin, Charlotte Observer, etc., May 10, 1938, typescript in Archives of Belmont Abbey, Belmont, North Carolina.
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  • Abbot Cincent Taylor Library

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1957
    Location:
    Belmont, Gaston County
    Street Address:
    Belmont Abbey and College, Belmont, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Educational
    Note:
    One of McInerney's last designs, the building has simple, rectilinear forms but also features the monk's signature cross motif.

  • Haid Gymnasium (The Haid)

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1929-1930
    Location:
    Gaston County
    Street Address:
    Belmont-Mount Holly Road, Belmont, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Educational
    Images Puslished In:
    Paschal Baumstein, The Art of Michael McInerney (1992).

  • Holy Angels Catholic Church

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1921
    Location:
    Mount Airy, Surry County
    Street Address:
    1208 N. Main St., Mount Airy, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Religious
    Images Puslished In:
    Paschal Baumstein, The Art of Michael McInerney (1992).
    Miriam Miller, A History of the Early Years of the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Charlotte (1984).
    Laura A. W. Phillips, Simple Treasures: The Architectural Legacy of Surry County (1987).
    Note:
    The tiny Gothic Revival church is built in the local Mount Airy Granite used for many structures in town.

  • Holy Trinity Catholic Church

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1921
    Location:
    Kinston, Lenoir County
    Street Address:
    506 W. Vernon Ave., Kinston, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Religious
    Images Puslished In:
    M. Ruth Little, Coastal Plain and Fancy: The Historic Architecture of Lenoir County and Kinston, North Carolina (1998).
    Note:
    The brick, Gothic Revival church typifies McInerney's style with its simple, gable-fronted form, buttresses, and pointed arched openings. A corner tower and narthex were added in the 1950s. The parish has established a larger church complex on another site, and the 1921 church is home to another congregation.

  • Loretta Hall Convent

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, Architect
    Dates:
    Early 20th century
    Location:
    Asheville, Buncombe County
    Street Address:
    Asheville, NC
    Status:
    Unknown
    Type:
    Religious
    Note:
    The Loretta Hall Convent was part of the St. Joseph Hospital, and it is not clear whether the building still stands within the hospital complex.

  • Mercy Hospital School of Nursing, Nurses Home

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    Ca. 1922
    Location:
    Charlotte, Mecklenburg County
    Street Address:
    Vail Ave., Charlotte, NC
    Status:
    No longer standing
    Type:
    Educational
    Note:
    According to the web site of Mercy Hospital, the Mercy Hospital and Mercy School of Nursing were established together in 1906 by the Sisters of Mercy of North Carolina. The original hospital was a 25-bed frame building located on E. First Street in downtown Charlotte. In 1916, Mercy Hospital opened at a new site between E. 5th St. and Vail Ave. with the Mercy School of Nursing facilities added in 1922. In 2006 the school moved to Forest Point Circle.

  • Nazareth Catholic Orphanage

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1903; 1927
    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:
    Bilyeu St., Raleigh, NC
    Status:
    No longer standing
    Type:
    Public
    Note:
    In 1927 the Manufacturers' Record reported that "Father Michael" of Belmont had drawn plans for a Catholic orphanage in Raleigh. This probably referred to the wings added to the original 1903 Catholic Orphanage Dormitory, which was one of the city's first reinforced concrete buildings.

  • O'Donoghue School

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Variant Name(s):
    St. Patrick Catholic School
    Dates:
    1930
    Location:
    Charlotte, Mecklenburg County
    Street Address:
    1125 Buchanan St., Charlotte, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Educational
    Note:
    The Manufacturers' Record reported in 1930 that Father Michael had designed a parochial school for St. Peter's Catholic Church, to be built of granite and cost $90,000. According to the St. Patrick Catholic School web site, the history of the school began with St. Mary's Seminary founded by the Sisters of Mercy of Belmont, which opened in 1887 on Tryon St. In 1905 it was relocated to another site on Tryon St. and named O'Donoghue Hall for a local physician whose family made a generous donation. The school was moved to 1125 Buchanan Street in Dilworth in 1930. Its imposing stone building is now St. Patrick Catholic School, the oldest Catholic school operating in the Charlotte area.

  • Our Lady of Annunciation Catholic Church

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    Ca. 1934
    Location:
    Albemarle, Stanly County
    Street Address:
    400 block N. 2nd St., Albemarle, NC
    Status:
    No longer standing
    Type:
    Religious
    Note:
    A marker states, "Our Lady of Annunciation Catholic Church. Erected in 1934. Rebuilt 1971."

  • Our Lady of Grace School

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    Early 20th century
    Location:
    Greensboro, Guilford County
    Street Address:
    2205 W. Market St., Greensboro, NC
    Status:
    Unknown
    Type:
    Educational

  • Robert Lee Stowe Hall (College Building)

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect (1900)
    Dates:
    1886; 1888; 1898; 1900
    Location:
    Belmont, Gaston County
    Street Address:
    Belmont-Mount Holly Road, Belmont, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Educational
    Note:
    After much of the late 19th century college building burned in 1900, McInerney planned the reconstruction. The illustration shows Stowe Hall in the middle.

  • Sacred Heart Cathedral

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1917
    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:
    200 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Religious
    Images Puslished In:
    Linda L. Harris and Mary Ann Lee, An Architectural and Historical Inventory of Raleigh, North Carolina (1978).
    Note:
    Harris and Lee (Raleigh) indicate that McInerney designed the Gothic Revival stone church, which is now a cathedral said to be the smallest Catholic cathedral in the country.

  • Sacred Heart Cathedral Convent and School

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    Early 20th century
    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:
    W. Edenton St., Raleigh, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Religious

  • Sacred Heart Catholic Church

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1940
    Location:
    Salisbury, Rowan County
    Street Address:
    Fulton St., Salisbury, NC
    Status:
    No longer standing
    Type:
    Religious

  • Sacred Heart Catholic Church and Visitors' Home

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1919; 1927
    Location:
    Pinehurst, Moore County
    Street Address:
    Pinehurst, NC
    Status:
    Unknown
    Type:
    Religious
    Note:
    The congregation moved to a new site and built a new church, which incorporated the stained glass windows from the McInerney church. The 1927 rectory was built as a "Clergy Rest House" for priests from all over the country who came to Pinehurst for a vacation.

  • Sacred Heart College Administration Building

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    Early 20th Century
    Location:
    Belmont, Gaston County
    Street Address:
    Main St., Belmont, NC
    Status:
    Unknown
    Type:
    Educational
    Note:
    Sacred Heart Academy, later Sacred Heart College, was established by the Sisters of Mercy as a women's college. It closed in 1987. McInerney designed the administration building and another structure called Victory Hall.

  • St. Aloysius Catholic Church

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1938
    Location:
    Hickory, Catawba County
    Street Address:
    Second St., Hickory, NC
    Status:
    Unknown
    Type:
    Religious
    Images Puslished In:
    Miriam Miller, A History of the Early Years of the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Charlotte (1984).
    Note:
    The 1938 Catholic church later became the parish hall and may be the building still standing.

  • St. Alphonsus de Liguori Catholic Church

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    Early 20th century
    Location:
    Wilson, Wilson County
    Street Address:
    N. Reid St., Raleigh, NC
    Status:
    Unknown
    Type:
    Religious

  • St. Gabriel Catholic Church and School

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    Early 20th century
    Location:
    Greenville, Pitt County
    Street Address:
    W. 5th St., Greenville, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Educational
    Religious
    Note:
    The parish has established a large new church on a different site, and the earlier church building is used as a community center.

  • St. Helen Catholic Church

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    ca. 1917
    Location:
    Spencer Mountain, Gaston County
    Street Address:
    341 Dallas Spencer Mountain Rd., Spencer Mountain, NC
    Status:
    Altered
    Type:
    Religious
    Images Puslished In:
    Kim Withers Brengle, The Architectural Heritage of Gaston County, North Carolina (1982).
    Crescat, 5.22.

  • St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1927
    Location:
    Asheville, Buncombe County
    Street Address:
    Haywood Rd., Asheville, NC
    Status:
    No longer standing
    Type:
    Religious
    Images Puslished In:
    Miriam Miller, A History of the Early Years of the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Charlotte (1984).
    Note:
    The congregation moved to a new location in Candler, NC, and the old church was razed to make way for a new development.

  • St. John Catholic Church

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1911
    Location:
    Tryon, Polk County
    Street Address:
    180 Laurel Ave., Tryon, NC
    Status:
    No longer standing
    Type:
    Religious
    Images Puslished In:
    Crescat, 5.2.

  • St. Joseph Sanitarium

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Variant Name(s):
    St. Joseph Hospital
    Dates:
    1900s
    Location:
    Asheville, Buncombe County
    Street Address:
    Biltmore Ave., Asheville, NC
    Status:
    Unknown
    Type:
    Health Care
    Images Puslished In:
    Paschal Baumstein, The Art of Michael McInerney (1992).
    Note:
    The sanitarium was opened in 1900 by the Sisters of Mercy, whose headquarters were in Belmont. In 1906 the sisters also established Mercy Hospital in Charlotte. The institution has become part of a large hospital complex; it is not clear what remains of the old building.

  • St. Lawrence Catholic Church Rectory

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    Ca. 1928
    Location:
    Asheville, Buncombe County
    Street Address:
    Haywood St., Asheville, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Religious
    Images Puslished In:
    Douglas Swaim, ed., Cabins and Castles: The History and Architecture of Buncombe County, North Carolina (1981).
    Note:
    The rectory was built to complement the church (now Basilica of St. Lawrence) planned by Richard Sharp Smith and Rafael Guastavino

  • St. Leo Catholic Church and Rectory

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1928-1929
    Location:
    Winston-Salem, Forsyth County
    Street Address:
    335 Springdale Ave., Winston-Salem, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Religious

  • St. Leo Hall

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1906-1907
    Location:
    Belmont, Gaston County
    Street Address:
    Belmont-Mount Holly Road, Belmont, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Religious
    Images Puslished In:
    Paschal Baumstein, The Art of Michael McInerney (1992).
    Note:
    The large brick edifice is an early and influential example of McInerney's "American Benedictine" style. The illustration shows St. Leo Hall on the right.

  • St. Mary Catholic Church

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1937
    Location:
    Shelby, Cleveland County
    Street Address:
    Shelby, NC
    Status:
    No longer standing
    Type:
    Religious
    Note:
    The church was replaced in 1963.

  • St. Mary Catholic Church and School

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1936
    Location:
    Greensboro, Guilford County
    Street Address:
    812 Duke St., Greensboro, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Educational
    Religious
    Images Puslished In:
    Marvin A. Brown, Greensboro: An Architectural Record (1995).
    Miriam Miller, A History of the Early Years of the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Charlotte (1984).
    Note:
    The St. Mary Catholic Church, a small, Gothic Revival brick church, is part of a complex that also included a convent, school, and rectory, built to serve black residents of east Greensboro.

  • St. Michael Catholic Church and Rectory

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1957
    Location:
    Gastonia, Gaston County
    Street Address:
    St. Michael Lane, Gastonia, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Religious
    Note:
    A larger church building has been constructed, but the smaller structure is still standing.

  • St. Monica's School

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1930
    Location:
    Raleigh, Wake County
    Street Address:
    15 N. Tarboro St., Raleigh, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Educational
    Note:
    The brick school with simple Collegiate Gothic detailing was built by the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh for black students.

  • St. Patrick Catholic Church and Rectory

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    1936
    Location:
    Fayetteville, Cumberland County
    Street Address:
    806 Arsenal Ave., Fayetteville, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Religious
    Note:
    The church was built for St. Patrick Catholic Church, but after that parish moved to another site in Fayetteville, the McMichael building became the home of St. Michael the Archangel Maronite Church

  • St. Peter Convent

    Contributors:
    Michael McInerney, architect
    Dates:
    Early 20th century
    Location:
    Charlotte, Mecklenburg County
    Street Address:
    507 S. Tryon St., Charlotte, NC
    Status:
    Standing
    Type:
    Religious
    Note:
    St. Peter's Catholic Church in Charlotte is a late 19th century church, long linked with the Belmont religious orders.

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