Historic Detroit

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

Our Lady of the Rosary

Our Lady of the Rosary Parish is a Roman Catholic church, originally built from 1893 to 1896 as St. Joseph Memorial Episcopal Church.

St. Joseph's was calling a smaller chapel home since its consecration on July 9, 1884. When the growing congregation outgrew that building, Mrs. L.R. Medbury gifted the funds necessary to erect this church, which was designed by Malcomson & Higginbotham. In 1906, however, the congregation merged with St. Paul's Cathedral a little ways south on Woodward.

The church was bought by Father Francis J. Vanantwerp's Our Lady of the Rosary parish on Feb. 16, 1907, for $519,500, the equivalent of about $16.5 million in 2023 dollars, when adjusted for inflation.

The gilded statue of the Virgin Mary on top of the church's square tower was added after the church became Our Lady of the Rosary Parish. Likewise, the church saw an addition tacked onto the rear of the church to provide more space.

"Originally the church had a Greek cross floor plan, with equal arms," said William Worden, retired director of Historic Designation for the City of Detroit and respected authority on Detroit's architectural history. "The addition made it a Latin cross plan, common in church design, but in this case backwards, with the long arm of the cross having the altar at its end."

Medbury Street, which originally ran along the south side of the church, was replaced by the I-94 freeway service drive, which has led some locals to call Our Lady of the Rosary Parish as "Our Lady of the Freeway."

Though the church retains its stained glass and exterior, its interior has been heavily altered over the years.

The church joined the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 3, 1982.

More on this church and interior images coming soon.

Last updated 10/03/2023