St. James Cathedral Basilica is the second church building to serve this parish. The first church was constructed in 1822 and was the first Roman Catholic church on Long Island. In 1852, St. James became the cathedral parish for the newly-established Diocese of Brooklyn under Bishop Loughlin. While the Diocese long planned to construct a new cathedral in Fort Greene, that plan never came to fruition and St. James has continued to serve as the cathedral church for the Diocese, although many of the Diocese's larger ceremonies are held elsewhere.
Laying of the cornerstone attended by 10,000 people, let by Bishop Loughlin. Construction was "begun on the second day of June under the superintendence of Mr. P. C. Keeley [sic], architect, who numbers this as his three hundred and eighty fifth church edifice he has been engaged in building on this continent. Its dimensions are 68 feet in width by 156 feet in depth, and judging by the massive appearance of the walls, constructed by the builder, Mr. Jas. Radwell [sic, probably Rodwell, a prominent local builder], will be as substantial an edifice as any in the States.