From the founding of Creighton College in 1878, until 1887, the spiritual needs of the Jesuit Community and the students were served by a chapel room on the fourth floor of the old Administration Building. In 1887, construction began on the new collegiate chapel, which would become the nave of the present church.
The collegiate chapel was dedicated to St. John the Evangelist "Before the Latin Gate". This feast commemorates the dedication of the Latin Basilica in Rome and its patron. The Creighton chapel was to have been dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the patron of John A. Creighton. However, Bishop O'Connor presumed that the patron was the saint of the day, May 6th, and dedicated the chapel to the Evangelist before the Fathers could correct the error.
In 1897, Bishop Scannell established St. John's Church s as a parish with parochial rights and duties. The new parish was given the territory from 20th to 30th Streets, and from Dodge Street on the south to Grace and Parker Streets on the north.
St. John's Church was designed in 1886 by P.J. Creedon of Omaha. The original structure extended to the present transepts and is faced in Warrensburg sandstone with Bedford stone trim. In 1921, J.M. Nachtigal completed the church with the addition of the transepts, sanctuary, sacristies and lower level. The addition is faced in Indiana limestone.
Creedon designed a Gothic Revival structure of Early English Lancet style. This style had become popular in England in the mid-1800's and was based on the theories of the Catholic Revival Movement, and later the Anglican Parish Movement. The proponents of this style saw it as a preferred response to the needs of the 19th Century worship, which they felt required a return to a simpler age of faith for its model. In their opinion, Early English Gothic fulfilled the need for sincerity of expression, propriety of space, and truthfulness of form.
The English Gothic Revival gained currency in the eastern United States before the civil War. Only after the war did the style appear in the West. With minor variations, St. John's exterior closely follows the canons of the style as established by the 19th Century revivalists.
Early English Gothic is characterized by simplicity of line, ruggedness of finish, limitation or ornament, and massiveness of form. The entrance porches and towers are added to the structure rather than integrated to it. The buttresses are unornamented, and those of the porches and towers are characteristically set at an angle. The facades are made more interesting with false piering and false arcading, and the east tower is lightened with pillared blind arcades.
In the only significant departure from the prescribed style, Creedon further lightened the south façade and towers with decorated window casements and art-glass windows, in response to the taste of the day. The glass for these windows was imported from Germany. The geometric pattern under the casements recalls an earlier Norman style of English architecture.
While the exterior of St. John's Church's shows careful attention to the requirements of the Revival style, the interior design was approached quite differently. The country was just emerging from an economic recession when the Jesuit Fathers of Creighton commissioned the church, and this is the probable reason for the interior's structural simplicity.
Given the restraints of economy, Creedon (and after him, Nachtigal) designed an interior of plaster-work over a brick and steel beam structure. The clustered pillaring is reminiscent of a later Perpendicular Gothic style. The vaults and arches are false-ribbed to define the ceiling spaces and to enhance the vertical feeling of the whole. The outside walls are broken by unframed windows with strong horizontal crosspieces basing the lancet tops. Between the windows are unornamented pilasters. The only decorative elements in the interior design are the low-relief capitals of the piers, and the low-relief corbels which echo them on the outside walls.
The taste of the period more than allowed for structural simplicity by the addition within the interior of extensive decoration and elaborate furnishing. The early interior of St. John's was richly colored, with gilt and polychrome detailing on walls and ceilings, in the Victorian manner.
Into this simple but highly decorated interior were set the elaborate Gothic Revival altars, the Stations of the Cross (which were originally pinnacled and polychromed), and later the shrine altars in the ambulatories. With these additions and the decoration, the church presented a complete expression of Victorian Gothic Revival piety and taste.
The windows were originally glazed with translucent amber glass. The present Sanctuary windows were installed with the addition of 1921. The nave and transept windows were installed between 1946 and 1949.
Vatican II Modifications
In 1968, the communion railing was moved, the sanctuary floor extended, and the Altar of Celebration moved forward to reoriented seating, in response to the Liturgical Renewal effected by Vatican II.
Creedon's original design called for the addition of a lantern and steeple to the east tower. When the steeple was completed in 1977, the lantern was omitted out of concern for the added weight on the old structure. At this time also was added the tape carillon.
In January 1981, St. John's Church was designated a Landmark of the City of Omaha in recognition of its historical importance in the community. Four generations of Omahans have found here "A House of Prayer for All Peoples."
In 2005, the stained glass windows on the North and South windows.
On 2006, the exterior renovation began by tuck pointing, replacement of deteriorated stones & paint and waterproof face of clock tower on eastern tower.
Interior Renovations of 2006-2007; they added Italian porcelain tile flooring, wooden pews, light fixtures, decorative painting of the interior, new altar and ambo constructed with marble from the former side altars (Sacred Heart and St. Therese). New baptismal font constructed from the former communion railing, new iron ambulatory screen to define worship space devotional space including a chapel of reservation seal of the Society of Jesus placed at head of main aisle. Addition to crucifix with Mary on St. John’s figures. Removal of tabernacles no longer in use. A reorientation of the altar allowed more seating in closer proximity to the altar of worship and created an area for liturgies with smaller congregations to take place. The Martyr’s Chapel became the resource center.
ELEVATOR ADDITION 2014-15
Within 2013, the Parish decided to raise money to get the funds needed to begin the construction of the elevator.
In 2014, construction of the elevator began on the west side of the church, which originally had a zigzag handicap ramp which only reaches the lower level of the church. The elevator reaches both levels of the church for easier access for parishioners.
On 2015, the construction was completed