It might be in Greektown, but St. Mary’s started off as a German parish.
Its earliest parishioners started out attending German Mass at Ste. Anne’s in 1833 before opening their first church June 29, 1843, on land donated by the Beaubien family. With a growing number of Germans coming to the city and finding themselves without enough room in their small pews, the flock tapped one of their own to design them a new church, Peter Dederichs.
This church follows the cruciform plan and has room for 1,200 souls. Dedicated Aug. 16, 1885, it stands on the site of the parish’s first church, on the southeast corner of St. Antoine Street and Monroe Avenue.
There is an urban legend that the granite columns were leftovers from construction of the State Capitol in Lansing, but they actually arrived in Detroit from Portland, Maine, in July 1884.
The parish’s school, built in 1868-69 and designed by Pius Daubner, still stands and is believed to be the oldest surviving school in the state. Its rectory dates to 1876 and was designed by Julius Hess.
Today, “Old St. Mary’s” continues to be one of the city’s most stunning churches and is a must-see for architecture buffs.