This is my second visit to the magnificent St Agnes Parish church. I was happy to see that it was still standing, but saddened to see that it had decayed a little more since my last visit in late 2013.
Opened in 1917, the church thrived through the middle part of the century, growing to 1,600 families, three priests, 22 nuns and a girl’s high school with 180 students by 1964, (the 50th anniversary of the church).
A few years later though, a police raid on an after-hours drinking establishment down the street led to a confrontation between officers and residents that quickly grew into one of the worst outbursts of civil unrest the country would ever see. Though the church was relatively unscathed by the 1967 riots, most of the buildings around it (on the same block) were burned to the ground. The neighborhood never recovered, and attendance numbers started to drop. Through the 1980’s, the number of parishioners fell from 1,500 to just a few hundred. By 1986 there were just 162 families worshiping at the church, not nearly enough to cover the operating cost of such a large church. The church closed its doors in 2006.
After closing, the building was put up for sale by the Detroit Archdiocese. What happened after that is hard to trace, but this much is clear. At some point after 2007 the Archdiocese removed the pews and stained glass windows, replacing them with clear plastic panes. The building sold to a congregation that never took possession of it, instead letting it fall into ruin. By 2009 the pipes of the organ had been stolen by metal thieves, and many of the glazed tiles set into the walls and pillars had been stripped out. Damage caused by weather and vandalism took hold through 2010 and the sanctuary began shedding large amounts of its facade.