Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

Church of the Blessed Sacrament

In July 1905, the Rev. John J. Connolly of Holy Rosary Church in Detroit was tasked with forming a new congregation in the fast-growing North Woodward section of Detroit. Formed that August, the congregation of the Most Blessed Sacrament began holding its services in an old shoe factory in Highland Park.

With its flock growing rapidly, work began in November 1905 on a two-story, brick building at Woodward Avenue and Belmont Street. The church was on the ground floor, and the Blessed Sacrament School was run out of four classrooms on the second story. It was designed by Harry J. Rill, and measured 76 feet by 80 feet.

The cornerstone was laid at 3 p.m., Dec. 10, 1905, with the Right Rev. Bishop John S. Foley officiating.

"During the ceremonies, a zealous parishioner took off his hat, and a man standing beside him, mistaking his pious action, put a dollar bill in the hat," the Detroit Free Press reported the following morning. "An idea seemed to immediately pass through the mind of the man with hat in his hand, and directly putting another dollar in the hat, he began to pass it around. The result, a fine collection, was turned over to Father Connolly, who announced that it would be applied to the cost of the edifice."

The church-school building was substantially complete by St. Patrick's Day 1906, which was on time. A reception was held for the school on March 20. The parish celebrated its first Mass in the structure a few weeks later, on April 1, 1906.

But the congregation, like its surrounding neighborhood, kept growing, and most notably, the mansions in nearby Boston-Edison and Arden Park were beginning to rise.

This meant that the small, modest church and school building was simply not going to be sufficient for the area's population -- or its increasingly wealthy inhabitants.

Architect Henry A. Walsh of Cleveland was commissioned to design something more grand. He came up with a gray limestone church designed in the Neo-Gothic style with room for 1,200 parishioners.

Plagued by financial problems, construction began in 1913 but moved slowly. Auxiliary Bishop Edward D. Kelly officiated at a cornerstone-laying ceremony on Oct. 11, 1914. Priests from 30 parishes across Detroit were among those in attendance.

The church hosted its first Mass on Aug. 13, 1916. Previously, the main transept had been opened for worship and funerals.

After the new church opened, the old building continued to be used as a school until at least 1936.