St. Florian's Church

St. Florian's Church


This church complex occupies the block bounded by Florian, Latham, Poland and Brombach in Hamtramck. It is located within the St. Florian Historic District.

This church won an award from the American Architect magazine in 1929, one year after it was completed. It is easy to concur with the wisdom of those judges. St. Albertus (1872) was the first Polish Catholic church in Detroit. Despite the very stormy relationship of Polish immigrants with the local Catholic hierarchy, at least seven additional Catholic parishes were founded: Sweetest Heart of Mary (1888) at 4400 Russell; St. Josaphat (1889) at 715 Canfield; St. Stanislaus (1890s) at 2246 Medbury; St. Hyacinth; St. Florian (1907) in Hamtramck and, on the west side: St. Casimir (1882); St. Francis of Assisi (1889) at Rich and Wesson and St. Hedwig (1903) at 3245 Junction. This reflects the substantial immigration of Poles to Detroit.

By 1907, Ford, Dodge and Packard plants were employing many Polish immigrants who settled in Hamtramck Township or contiguous neighborhoods in Detroit. The first building constructed by St. Florian's parish was a combination school-church building that still stands. After the opening of the church you see pictured here, that building was used as a school until about 1990 when it closed. By about 1920s, the parish had paid the mortgage on its building. They excavated a large space that served as the basement for the church you see. They met there for some years but soon the parish decided to build a massive church, reflecting the increasing prosperity of Poles. Their generosity facilitated construction of one of the most attractive churches in the metropolis. Ralph Adams Cram of the nationally known Boston firm of church architects, Cram and Ferguson, was recruited to design a massive Gothic structure. I do not know why he was selected. He had constructed two other impressive churches in Detroit—the Cathederal Church of St. Paul at Warren and Woodward and St. Andrews that is now on the Wayne State University campus.

The front features a broad Gothic Arch flanked by twin spires notable for the impression that give of lightness and delicateness. The brickwork with its richly colored red-brown bricks is also exceptionally impressive with a variety of horizontal bands. The stained glass work is striking and fitting for such an interesting church. The alter windows depict five famous Polish saints—Casimir, Florian, Hedwig, Hyacinth and Stanislaus—while the nave windows illustrate the life and teachings of Christ. This is a church that dominates the neighborhood. You cannot, however, take just a quick look at this church. When you stop to look, you realize that it is a very complex and beautiful structure. The interior of this church was attractively refurbished in the last decade.

This is another example of how immigrants coming to Detroit—many of them lacking much in the line of formal education—used their savings to build extraordinarily attractive religious structures, presumably reflecting their dedication to their faiths. The Polish population moved away from Hamtramck after World War II, but the St. Florian Historic District serves the same function in the first decade of the 21st century as it did a century ago—providing homes for low- and middle-income migrants coming to Detroit to seek a more prosperous and secure life. St. Florian's Church is a most impressive memorial left by the Poles who once lived here in great numbers.

St. Florian was a Roman soldier born near Vienna in 280. He converted to Catholicism and was martyred for his faith by being thrown into the Enns River in upper Austria near Poland. His bones were transferred to Rome, but in 1184, King Casimir of Poland brought his relics back to Krakow. Florian is credited with preventing the destruction of Krakow by fire; hence he is the patron saint of firefighters. At some years in the past. St. Florian's has celebrated a special Mass for Detroit area firefighters.

A new book about architecturally significant Detroit churches features several extremely impressive pictures of the interior ot St. Florians.

Architect: Ralph Adams Cram of Cram and Ferguson
Date of Completion: 1928
Architectural Style: English Gothic
Stained Glass Windows: Mayer of Munich; J. M. KIase Glass of Reading Pennsylvania and Conrad Schmitt of Milwauk
For additional information, see: Marla O. Collum, Barbara E. Kruegder and Dorothy Kostuch, Detroit's Historic Places of Worship (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2012)
Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: P25314. This is the registration for the St. Florian Historic District that includes a total of 691 structures in a large area of Hamtramck bounded by Joseph Campau, Holbrook, Dequindre, Norwalk, Limpkin and Yeans.
National Registry of Historic Sites: Listed: September 13, 1984
Photo: Ren Farley, September, 2002
Use in 2012: Catholic Church with at least one Sunday Mass said in Polish
Description updated: December, 2012 .

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