Detroit: St. Agnes Catholic Church and School

St. Agnes church and school in the 1920's.

Built between 1922 and 1924, St. Agnes, with its school, convent, parish house, and church, thrived with the LaSalle neighborhood all the way through its 50th anniversary in 1964.

The church is located at the epicenter of the neighborhood in which police raided an illegal bar and the ensuing backlash proved to be one of the worst periods of civil unrest in United States history. Although it survived the ’67 riots, many of the other buildings on its street burned to the ground. Throughout Detroit, but particularly from 12th Street and Rosa Parks, people began to leave.

The 1967 riot broke out blocks away from St. Agnes, seen here in the foreground. Most of the buildings along 12th Avenue were destroyed, although St. Agnes was spared damage.

In 1981, the dwindling neighborhood hosted Mother Theresa. After she spoke, she insisted that the event’s cache of coffee and donuts be distributed among Detroit’s lesser fortunate.
As a reflection of the changing racial landscape of the neighborhood, the archdiocese renamed the church to Martyrs of Uganda, in honor of a group of African missionaries, who, in 1886, were killed for refusing to renounce their faith.

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But, the neighborhood never recovered from the riots and the school closed in 2001, redesignated as a storage facility for the church, which itself only lasted an additional five years.  In 2006, the declining of both the condition of the structure and the number of  parishioners added St. Agnes to a growing list of church closures.  The stained glass was replaced with foggy plastic, and the furnishings were removed.

Although it’s been for sale by the archdiocese for almost a decade, the property remains vacant and open to trespass.  It has become a prime tourist destination as a symbol of inner-city decay.  Since 2006, though, the ornate columns have crumbled to barely recognizable forms along their paths toward the point of the Gothic vaulted ceiling.  Hyper-ephemeral art installations are placed occasionally and quickly destroyed.  Most of the tiles have been picked from the walls, leaving behind only ones broken in a failed attempt to scavenge.  It is certainly displaced from its former glory, but still for sale in hopes that, in DetroitUrbex’s words, it can unite the neighborhood again.

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Historic images and source material for this article by DetroitUrbex.com [x]

5 thoughts on “Detroit: St. Agnes Catholic Church and School

    1. Thank you! Since the article was posted, it’s been boarded up and cleaned out (after many years as a main feature of abandoned Detroit). Something’s about to happen, we just aren’t sure what.

      Like

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