The Archdiocese of Baltimore decided that it wanted a presence in Bolton Depot (later Bolton Hill), an area of charm and wealth, the best of city living at the time, but one which was not Catholic in 19th-century Baltimore. This presence was to be at the corner of what is now Mt. Royal and Lafayette Avenues, property that had been previously farmland.
The first services were at 45 Bolton Street, the residence of the first pastor, Rev. William Starr. Although there was only room for approximately 150 attendees, more than 200 individuals routinely attended weekly Mass there. Seeing the need for more space Archbishop (later Cardinal) Gibbons agreed to build a school on the above noted property, with the upper story the chapel for Mass attendance.
The parish boundaries were quite meager, a sore point for Rev. Starr, as parish growth would forever be limited. In spite of this, there were approximately 1000 people enrolled. A number of parish organizations were started (e.g., Apostleship of Prayer, St. Vincent de Paul Society). The school was built in 1881; the ground was broken for the church in 1885, with the cornerstone laid in 1886. The church was built through the generosity of the children of Thomas and Louisa Carrell Jenkins as a memorial to their parents (hence, the original name of the church was the “Jenkins Memorial”). The original cost of the church was $230,000. Finally, parishioners had a church that was all their own.
In July of 1883, the young parish suffered greatly in a Baltimore tragedy. An outing on the Patapsco River turned deadly, as a rotting pier collapsed, killing those waiting for a barge to take them to their destination. With no lighting or lifeboats, 63 people drowned, 22 of them parishioners. This Tivoly Disaster (named after the site of the outing) is the reason that the Corpus Christi bells toll each evening at 7:00 p.m.