A church which hasn't been completed yet.
St. Peter's parish was organized in 1857 in Corktown, which was then a suburb of Detroit.
Most of the members of St. Peter's came from County Cork, Ireland. Their second church was of wood in carpenter Gothic design but by 1925, the old church had fallen into disrepair. The City condemned the building, and an unwanted building campaign was forced on the no longer thriving congregation across from Tiger Stadium, then called Navin Field.
Without sufficient funds, the congregation began construction of the Parish House and Chapel. The Sanctuary would come second, four years down the road in 1929, on the eve of the Stock Market Crash.
They had a third section in mind as well: a partly commercial building of stores facing out on Michigan Avenue where the old church stood. A picture in the Artifacts gallery displays all three buildings. The third building on the left had never been built.
The plan was, first, to erect a three-story building: the top floor would be the Rectory for a clergyman without too big a family; one floor down, the second, would be classrooms, along with a kitchen and shower facilities; and then a first floor that allowed for a choir locker-room and practice space, along with a rather grand Rector's office (now the library) and a small office for the secretary.
The Great Depression delayed the completion of the Sanctuary by ten years, so that the Parish House and its tiny Chapel must have served for a time beyond itself; beyond its planned use of space, for an even more dwindling congregation. Indeed, sometime in the thirties the parish reverted to mission status and became a dependency of St. John's Church on Woodward by the present ballpark. It is said that the men of St. Peter's, in defiance of the winds troubling the world outside, played cards in the boiler room.
After the world settled down some, following World War Two, and St. Peter's regained parish status, an enterprising young Rector (living on the third floor), who was also a chaplain to Juvenile Court, led the congregation to reinvent a use for the Parish House as a residence for teenage youth in minor trouble with the law: St. Peter's Home for Boys. This was roughly 1948 to 1962. The boys were no more in number than the second floor could accommodate (not all that many), but they would serve the daily masses in the Chapel and sing in the choir on Sunday and interact with the few girls in the congregation and eventually undertake blue collar lives somewhere else.
After the Boys Home moved out into larger accommodations (it is closed now), another Rector, who had a day job as a parole officer, and would eventually become mayor of Newberry in the Upper Peninsula, led the congregation into a more drastic kind of hospitality, one that was unwelcome to the neighborhood. The Parish House became a "halfway house" for Federal prisoners - actually a pre-release program for inmates at Milan Federal Penitentiary between 1962 to 1982.
They were hardly just taking up space on the second floor: they used the whole Parish House (St. Peter's retained only the vesting room across from the former Rector's Office). St Peter's had to negotiate the rent with the Department of Justice each year - which paid always a couple months after the fact (called a "reimbursement"). It ended all of a sudden in 1982 with the advent of President Reagan.
In 1981 WARM (Weatherization and Retrofit Maintenance) was begun in a portion of the building. Now much changed and grown, it has its own place on Michigan Ave.
Then came COTS ("Coalition on Temporary Shelter") in 1982, soon after the halfway house moved out. St. Peter's kept an amazing number of men, women and children in the Parish House. Even the chapel became an office (a drop ceiling hid the romanesque space). St. Peter's collected no rent for this, though COTS paid for all the utilities and maintenance.
But they outgrew St. Peter's within a few years and moved into their own hotel.
After a couple years of vacancy, and without planning ahead for it, St. Peter's undertook the sheltering of Central American refugees over a period of ten months. It was 1987, the year that the government tightened up its laws regarding refugees. Suddenly there was a flood of refugees, mostly from war-torn El Salvador, heading for Canada. And Canada reacted by closing its doors temporarily in an effort to get some control and slow things down.
This meant that the refugees would need to remain on this side of the border another six weeks or so. St. Peter's provided hospitality for them in their Parish House during this waiting period, and raised the necessary money to pay for this. St. Peter's called themselves the "Detroit/Windsor Refugee Coalition," which continues today at St. Anne's Church as "Freedom House."
What prompted the refugee hospitality ministry to move out of St. Peter's was another decision, a prior one made by our congregation, to support a ministry of hospitality and care for teenage girls who were on the street or in danger of ending up there. St. Peter's called this "Alternatives for Girls." Though St. Peter's had a lot of help from their friends, the main drive for this came from St. Peter's: they defined the need and the vision, raised the startup moneys, took the risks, even provided some of the staffing and labor. In fact, at first they owned the program, but then turned it over to others outside the parish to carry it. AFG remained at St. Peter's from 1988 to 2003, at which point it moved out of the Parish House onto its own campus.
Another program occupied the Parish House (and other parts of St. Peter's) - "Young Detroit Builders" - for about six years. Though it has moved also.
Since the 1970s, under the leadership of Fr. Tom and Marianne and with support of so many volunteers over the years, St. Peter's Manna Meal has been feeding and clothing hungry and unhoused people. More recently the Corner Shower and Laundry has helped the homeless and near-homeless live healthier and with more dignity through access to shower and laundry facilities.
To date the church has not been completed. Because of the lack of funds, the rose brick walls have not been plastered and the wood sheathing for the ceiling has not been installed. However, by contemporary standards, exposed internal supports and works have value and are considered aesthetically pleasing. Furnishings of the original St. Peter's have been incorporated in the present building.
The Window Story
The chancel treatment of St. Peter's is English and is characterized by a square sanctuary with a vertically traceried window. In 1929, the stained glass window for the chancel was ordered from James Hogan, an English glass artist and head of Whitefriars Studios in England. The resulting Te Deum Window of five lancets is one of the finest stained glass windows in Detroit, if not the Midwest, and illustrates the ancient hymn of unknown origin "Te Deum Laudamas."
According to a report in the Detroit New from Oct. 16 1971, two windows were installed in St. Peter's in 1947, almost two decades after they were commissioned. The remaining three windows had been sitting in the factory in England since 1929. St. Peter's finally got the funds through fund raising campaigns in the early 70s, the remaining three windows were paid off, shipped and installed more than 40 years after putting them in layaway.