St. Florian Church

As Detroit spread and prospered during the booming 1920s, its need for more houses of worship grew, too
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1928

St. Florian Church
Photograph Courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther library, Wayne State University

As Detroit spread and prospered during the booming 1920s, its need for more houses of worship grew, too. In Hamtramck, then a predominantly Polish-Catholic enclave, St. Florian Church, founded in 1908, became too small to accommodate the burgeoning parish. In 1928, a Gothic-style church on Poland Street was erected, towering above the simple frame houses in the blue-collar neighborhood. Parishioners, most of whom were factory workers, scraped up their savings to build a new, much larger church. Typical of so many houses of worship in immigrant communities, it dwarfed everything around it, its 200-foot-high steeple jutting heavenward. The building’s architectural details are notable on many counts, including the great rose window, and the stained-glass windows in the sanctuary, all representing a Polish saint. This image shows the dedication on Oct. 21, 1928. The edifice was designed by Ralph Adams Cram, who won the American Architect Award for it in 1929. In 1969, the cardinal of Krakow, Poland, Karol Wojtyla, visited the church; nine years later, he became Pope John Paul II. St. Florian was once the second-largest parish in metro Detroit, but like so many churches and schools in aging neighborhoods, its congregation shrank, forcing the closure first of the high school and then the grade school. Interim Detroit Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr. is a 1983 grad. However, the church remains open and, although the worshippers are more ethnically diverse than they were in the ’20s, St. Florian (who is the patron saint of firefighters) continues to offer Masses in both Polish and English. This month, St. Florian celebrates its centennial with an 11 a.m. Mass on Nov. 23.

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