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Historic Eastern Market church completes restoration of steeple and bell tower

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It’s the first part of a $2.5 million project to rehab St. Joseph’s Oratory

View from across the street of a three-story duplex and tall Gothic church. The church has a green copper steeple with scaffolding around it.
Photo of St. Joseph Oratory from 2018 during steeple restoration.
Photos by Michelle & Chris Gerard

A new chapter is about to begin for an old Detroit church.

In October 2017, St. Joseph Oratory began a $2.5 million Historic Renewal campaign—the first significant restoration in the history of the nearly 150-year-old German Gothic church on Jay Street in Eastern Market.

According to the Catholic church, the bell tower was constructed in 1873, which made it the tallest building in Detroit at the time. The steeple was added in 1892.

For the restoration, the church replaced the wood underlayment, then added real slate and copper with a patina treatment. The work was done by Detroit Cornice and Slate.

We wrote about the church and its restoration efforts last year. Before the campaign began, signs pointed to the church closing. Membership was decreasing and a bevy of repairs were necessary.

In early 2016, a wind storm severely damaged the historic steeple, and its slate cladding was removed for safety. The parish was divided between two other churches, and St. Joseph received the fewest visitors. It looked dire for the church.

Things have turned around since. The campaign has been successful in not only raising money, but renewing interest in the church. Around 600 people regularly attend Sunday services and the Detroit News reports that St. Joseph has raised $1.2 million of the necessary restoration funds.

Future work will include redoing the electrical and HVAC (which will help preserve the historic details), repainting the shimmering ceiling, and upgrading the landscaping and fencing. It also plans to add a sound system.

Take a look at some photos we shot of the church from our profile in 2018.

The nave of a church with rows of pews and a center aisle. The ceiling has many vaults and curves and is painted light blue. There’s also arched windows on either side, some of which have stained glass.
The church chancel with ornate wood panelling, stained-glass windows, and a gold organ.
A close-up of the blue painted arches in the church ceiling.

St. Joseph Oratory

1828 Jay Street, , MI 48207 Visit Website