Over the next quarter century Immaculate Conception parish continued to grow. While no exact numbers are available, genealogical data indicates that many new Irish immigrants, along with Germans and Italians, settled in the area. By 1880 the little stone church was too small for the congregation and plans for a larger structure were begun.
Joseph Baumann, the leading local architect of that time, designed the new church in the Victorian Gothic style. Construction was slow on the new building, due in part to the scarcity of locally produced bricks, as two other major projects (the Knox County Courthouse and Eastern State Asylum) were also under construction. Nearing the end of construction, City Councilman Samuel Rodgers proposed to locate the town clock on the highest hill in downtown Knoxville in the tower of the new Catholic church. While the pastor of the parish, Father Francis Marron, agreed to the proposal, there arose much opposition from the anti-Catholic element in town. An agreement was finally struck; the town would pay for the clock and its installation, and the parish would pay for the redesigning and additional construction costs of the tower, which in the original design was a plain 150 foot tower. The clock tower was barely completed on time for the church dedication on September 19, 1886.