National Register of Historic Places Inventory - St. Joseph's Episcopal Church

Creator: United States Department of the Interior National Park Service
Subjects: Historic Designation, Corporate Records
Description: Description of religious structures inside and outside of St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church. Located at 5930 Woodward Avenue at Medbury (East Edsel Ford Freeway), Detroit, Michigan. Commonly known as Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church.
Format: Text/jpg
Original Format: Photograph
Language: English
Rights Management: St. Joseph's Episcopal Church
Contributing Institution:
Contributor: Carlton Rolle
National Register of Historic Places Inventory - St. Joseph's Episcopal ChurchNational Register of Historic Places Inventory - St. Joseph's Episcopal Church
Transcript: The complex is located on the northeast corner of Woodward Avenue and Medbury Street (now the Edsel Ford service drive). St. Joseph's Episcopal Church (now Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church), built 1893-96, is a rambling, ground-hugging, rock-faced, cross-gable-roofed, sandstone, Romanesque Revival structure notable for its complex massing. The Woodward Avenue elevation is the entrance front. The gabled facade is flanked by a tall, square, pyramid-roofed tower at the corner of Medbury Street and by a lower, round, conical-roofed tower on the north. A one-story vestibule containing the arched entrance spans the facade between the towers. A huge round window fills the gable above the vestibule. The most notable feature of the facade is the soaring corner tower with its corbelled and battlemented parapet. The rectangular severity of the tower shaft is modulated by a two-story, semi-circular stair turret on the Woodward Avenue side and a round turret that projects from its outside corner at the upper levels. The oversized, gilded statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary crowning the tower's hip-roof is a striking feature and an addition.

The Medbury Street side is the only other architecturally articulated elevation of the building. It is dominated by the massive gable of the transept which is pierced by a large, tripartite, arched window. Arched double doors in the base of the tower provide a secondary entrance to the church. Extending to the rear of the church is the flat-roofed wing containing the sacristy and service rooms. Terminating the building is the chapel, a gable-roof, stone, Richardsonian Romanesque structure with a square, pyramid-roof, corner tower. The chapel was built in 1883-84 and served as the original St. Joseph's. The interior of the church was extensively redecorated in the early 1970s to reflect contemporary taste. It retains its basic Romanesque plan and decorative features but has been painted a light cream (except for the stone columns) and furnished in a modern manner with a new altar and modern chairs rather than pews.

Basically it is basilican in plan with a high, central nave with a painted, timbered, flat ceiling and lower side aisles set off by the Romanesque columned arcade supporting the stained glass nave clerestory. A wooden balcony spans the rear of the auditorium supported on wooden posts with carved Romanesque capitols., Numerous brilliantly colored stained glass windows light the interior. The chapel retains its late nineteenth-century appearance. It has a timber work truss-supported, pitched ceiling and a sanctuary apse set off by plaster Gothic arches. In addition, the chapel retains its fine stained glass windows.

Specific dates: chapel, 1883-84, and church, 1893-96
Architects: Malcomson & Higginbotham (William Malcomson (1853-1937) and William Higginbotham (1858-1923)) of Detroit, architects for church

This Richardsonian Romanesque complex originated with the St. Joseph's Memorial Chapel, the gift of Mrs. L. R. Medbury. The smaller chapel, consecrated on July 9, 1884, proved too small for the growing congregation and the present larger church was erected west of the chapel facing toward Woodward Avenue. In 1906 St. Joseph's congregation merged with that of the congregation of St. Paul's Cathedral nearby. The building was sold in 1907 to Father Francis J. Vanantwerp for a purchase price of $519,500. The present congregation draws an urban mix of Wayne State University students, street people, and Catholic charismatic’s. The church interior has been significantly altered to reflect service to its contemporary parishioners. The former St. Joseph's Church complex is notable in a statewide context as a fine example of Richardsonian Romanesque church design and the 1893-96 church itself in at least a local context as an important work of the prominent Detroit architectural firm of Malcomson & Higginbotham.