Holy Cross Hungarian Catholic Church

Holy Cross Hungarian Catholic Church

8423 South Street in Detroit's Delray Neighborhood near the Detroit River in southwest Detroit

Four waves of immigrants came from Hungary to Detroit. The first stream, arriving in the late 19th century, settled in Delray, a village that was founded in 1850 and remained an independent township until 1907 when it was annexed by Detroit. The second wave arrived from Hungary after World War I when the Austro-Hungarian Empire disappeared and the victors redrew the map of Eastern Europe. Jobs in Downriver industries, and then in Cadillac's Clark Avenue plant, provided a secure economic base for immigrants to Delray. Another stream of Hungarian migrants arrived after World War II. In 1956, a revolution in Hungary sought to overthrow Russian control. Many expected that during this Cold War era, President Eisenhower would strongly support the revolutionaries in Hungary. Indeed, some presumed that US intelligence personnel may have encouraged the attempted revolution in Hungary. President Eisenhower did not, and the Russians quickly put down the challenge to their authority. The United States, however, adopted a very liberal immigration policy, allowing those Hungarians who escaped to Germany or Austria to enter this country. By this time, the Hungarian population of Delray was moving to the suburbs, but some immigrants from Hungary settled in this neighborhood after 1956. Hungarians were a religiously diverse immigrant stream: many Roman Catholics, some Jews, numerous Protestants and some Eastern Orthodox Catholics

A church for Polish Catholics in this area, St. John Cantius, was founded in 1902. Four years later, an Hungarian parish was established under the leadership of Father Hubert Kettner. The prosperity of the first two streams of Hungarians provided them with the resources to build this beautiful church in the mid 1920s in a now-desolate neighborhood. This red brick, twin-towered Gothic structure was designed and built by the Hungarian-born, but US trained, architect, Henrik Kohner. Its stained glass windows and its murals distinguish the church. The major windows are done in a Renaissance style using pot metal and painted enamel glass. They depict the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin and are the work of Ludwig von Gerichten. There are five sanctuary windows showing Christ flanked by Sts. Peter and Paul while the accompanying windows show Hungarian saints: Ladislaus, Elizabeth and Margaret. Andres Dauber painted the murals showing the Mysteries of the Rosary in 1948 when this was still a prosperous ethnic neighborhood. Later, the Hungarian population moved to the suburbs and few people moved into this humble and isolated neighborhood to replace them.

This parish remains open because it caters to the needs of Hungarian-speaking Catholics in southwest Michigan. It is now staffed by Franciscan monks from Hungary. The architect who designed this structure, Henrik Kohner, desinged nearby Szent Janus Templum for an Hungarian Orthodox congegation 13 years before he designed Holy Cross. Kohner desgined for Hungarian congregation but did not limit himself to Christian churches. He was the architect for the massive Congregation B'nai Moshe synagague on Dexter that opened in 1929. And he lived long enough to resume his work after the Depression and World War II terminated most commissions for architects. He designed one of the about two dozen synaagues that were built in Detroit after World War II: Yeshivah Beth Yuheda Mogen Abraham, also on Dexter.

In 2012, Governor Rick Snyder announced plans for a new international bridge that would cross the Detroit River near this point, a bridge that will primarily be funded by Canadian funds. If that bridge is built as described in 2012, this church will likely be razed. Presumably, Kohner's Szent Janus Templom will also be torn down for the bridge if it is ever built.

Date of completion: 1924
Architect: Henrik Kohner
Location: 8423 South Street in Delray
Photo: September, 2002, Ren Farley
Use in 2002: The same as in 1924- a Roman Catholic Church
City of Detroit Designated Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Registry of Historic Places: Not listed
Description updated: June, 2012

Return to Religious Structures

Return to Home Page