Polish Parishes and Churches in Michigan, Massachusetts and Minnesota, part II

„Polish Cethedrals" in Detroit and around

By POLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

Church of St. Florian in Hamtrack. Interior (1914/1928) by Ralph Adams CramPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

"Polish Cathedrals" in USA

“Polish Cathedrals” are monumental churches raised by Polish emigrants in the USA from the second half of the 19th century until 1930th. According to custom, they are being called cathedrals however this expression is referring to the scale and the majesty of the architecture of these churches and the role they played in the life of the local communities of the Poles.

Church of St. Florian in Hamtramck. Paintings on the vault (1914/1928) by Ralph Adams CramPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

The parishes created around these churches were center of the social life of emigrants, to a large extent contributed by them alone, cultivating native traditions and connections with Poland. The churches are located on the eastern coast and on the Midwest of the United States. What distinguishes them is a decoration which symbolic references to the Homeland - Polish saints, national symbols.

Church of St. Hedwig of Silesia in Detroit (1916) by Harry J. RillPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

Church of St. Hedwig of Silesia

In 1911 Harry J. Rill (born 1854) drew up plans for the current church and convent for the nuns. The construction was carried out by Józef Nowakowski.  The construction was completed in 1916. 

Church of St. Hedwig of Silesia in Detroit. Interior (1916) by Harry J. RillPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

The interior decoration was purchased from the Daprato Statuary Company, and the same company made the stained-glass windows in 1918.

Church of St. Hyacinth in Detriot (1924) by Donaldson & Meier CompanyPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

Church of St. Hyacinth

The history of the Church of St. Hyacinth is quite
similar to that of other parishes founded by Polish emigrants, this time mostly Kashubian. With a massive influx of immigrants the community of St. Albertus’s grew and the establishment of a new parish became an urgent necessity. The first Masses were held in Martin Tesmar’s house at the corner of McDougall and Theodore streets.

Church of St. Hyacinth in Detriot. Interior (1924) by Donaldson & Meier CompanyPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

 The design was entrusted to the local architect John Donaldson, representing the Donaldson and Meier Company. The building differs from the ecclesiastical architecture of Detroit as it features Romanesque Revival elements within a Byzantine Revival structure, additionally enhanced by decoration referring to Byzantine art, e.g. made from mosaics.

Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Bay City (1889/1892) by Pratt & Koeppe CompanyPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Bay City, Michigan

The St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish in Bay City is one of the ten oldest Polish parishes in the United States, and was organized by Father Kazimierz Rochowski. The first church dedicated on 13 December 1874, was made of wood and could accommodate two hundred people.

Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Bay City. Interior (1889/1892) by Pratt & Koeppe CompanyPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

The new church (constructed in the years 1889-1892) was designed by Pratt & Koeppe, the leading architectural company in Bay City in 1880-1910, and built by the companies run by Ben Burbrigde and Andrew Thompson. It was an imposing Gothic Revival structure, designed for 1500 people, with skeleton frame construction (steel, yellow brick, concrete, stone) and architectural details made from oak inside and brick outside.

Church of St. Florian in Hamtramck (1914/1928) by Ralph Adams CramPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

Church of St. Florian in Hamtramck, Michigan

In St. Florian’s facade great harmony of vertical and horizontal features is achieved by decorating the red brick structure with horizontal stripes made of lightcolored limestone. The construction technique which Cram used was very modern – a steel frame. The building is believed to have been awarded by the American Architect magazine in 1929.

Church of St. Florian in Hamtrack. Interior (1914/1928) by Ralph Adams CramPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

The Church of St. Florian fits perfectly into the idea of architecture which goes beyond the more or less creative imitation of old styles. The designer was looking for the architecture that would emanate spirituality and resist the progressing industrialization, which distracted man from non-material values. The beauty of Gothic architecture and its inner harmony was to be the opposite of the ugliness and chaos of the industrial world.

Church of St. Florian in Hamtramck. Paintings on the vault (1914/1928) by Ralph Adams CramPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

The Polish parish of St. Florian in Hamtramck was established in 1907, at the beginning of the town’s prosperity. Its establishment was connected with the development of the automotive industry and the rapid growth of Polish immigration.

Church of Our Lady of the Scapular in Wyandotte (1916) by Harry J. RillPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

Church of Our Lady of the Scapular in Wyandotte, Michigan

In 1916 the church and a Felician convent were erected. The designer was the dependable Harry J. Rill. Thanks to the archives that have been preserved we can learn a lot about the decoration process, which extended over several years. And when it ended the renovations and redecorations began. In 1920 the church obtained three bells named St. Stanislaus Kostka, Holy Angels and Our Lady Queen of Poland.

Church of Our Lady of the Scapular in Wyandotte. Interior (1916) by Harry J. RillPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

The new main altar was installed in 1942 and restored in 2020. In the 1950s the works included the new painting decoration made by the artist Józef C. Mazur from Buffalo, a stained-glass maker, painter and sculptor originating from Galicia. He was educated in the USA at the Albright Art School in Buffalo and at the Art Students League of New York.

The Basilica of St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr in Chicopee (1908/1909) by Robert J. Reiley, Gustave E. SteinbackPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

The Basilica of St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr, Chicopee

The first European settlers arrived in what is now Chicopee in 1638. In the 19th century the city became an important textile industry center, to which Poles, emigrants from the poor areas of the Austrian partition (Galicia), began arriving in 1880. The Baroque Revival church accommodating more than 800 people was built between 1908 and 1909 according to the design by Robert J. Reiley and Gustav E. Steinback from New York.

The Basilica of St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr in Chicopee. Interior (1908/1909) by Robert J. Reiley, Gustave E. SteinbackPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

The character of the interior is predominantly determined by paintings. In the semi-dome over the apse there is the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa surrounded by angels. The vault over the nave features trompe l’oeil coffers and an image of St. Stanislaus floating among the clouds with angels holding the attributes of the bishop.

Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Winona (1894/1895) by Charles Grandison Maybury CompanyPOLONIKA The National Institute of Polish Cultural Heritage Abroad

Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Winona, Minnesota

The Polish parish was established in Winona very early, in 1871, when a
hundred families from the Prussian partition had settled in the city. On 28 October 1894  there was a consecration of the cornerstone for the construction of a church. The new church was dedicated by Bishop Joseph B. Cotter a year later, on Thanksgiving Day. The church for nearly 2000 people was designed in the studio of Charles Grandison Maybury, which he ran in Winona between 1881 and 1904 together with his son Jefferson.

Henryk Sienkiewicz, who came to the United States in 1876, i.e. at the beginning of the three decades which Mark Twain called “The Gilded Age”, stated: “However, the main force which sustains the passable moral unity is the Church and the Polish parish priests”. Although this was before the main wave of Polish immigration to America, it reflected – despite numerous individual exceptions – the profile of Polish settlement in the “western borderlands”. In the land of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, but also of Kazimierz Pułaski and Tadeusz Kościuszko, this ethnic group of at least 2.5 million people marked its existence primarily by means of parishes and churches. According to very rough estimations about 800 Polish parishes were created in the USA between 1870 and 1930.
There were also voices of admiration for the churches erected by Polish emigrants by observers of the reality in America at the time. A German-language Catholic magazine published in San Francisco at the end of the 1880s stated explicitly: “Polish churches in Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Cleveland, Milwaukee are among the most beautiful in the country”.

Credits: Story

Part I of the exhibition "Polish Parishes and churches"


based on the book "Polish Parishes and Churches in Michigan, Massachusetts i Minnesota" by: Anna Sylwia Czyż, Bartłomiej Gutowski, Paweł Sieradzki, edited by: Narodowy Instytut Polskiego Dziedzictwa Kulturowego za Granicą POLONIKA, 2021
text: Anna Sylwia Czyż, Bartłomiej Gutowski, Paweł Sieradzkiphoto: Norbert Piwowarczyk

Project of documentation of Polish churches and parishes in USA is run by John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin and Art History Institute of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw.

editor: Anna Ekielska
© Narodowy Instytut Polskiego Dziedzictwa Kulturowego za Granicą POLONIKA  and authors

Supervisory institution: Ministerstwo Kultury i Dziedzictwa Narodowego RP

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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