Built in 1858 at nearby Cliffton, the Saint Mary’s Church served the Catholic people of Cliff and Eagle River for almost 50 years before it’s continued existence was threatened with the mines closure. Understanding the need for a Catholic Church to stay in the area, an ambitious plan of physically moving the church to Phoenix was undertaken. The building was cut in half and then moved over a mile east (by means of horse and wagon no less) to its present location at Phoenix. At Phoenix the church was renamed the “Church of the Assumption” and continued to serve the community for another 50 years. By 1957 the last regular services were held and the church was deconsecrated soon after.
Now the church is owned by the Keweenaw Country Historical Society and has been painstakingly restored to something more resembling its original appearance. The church is now used as a museum, and allows visitors to take a look at a historic church in an original setting and decor. It is easily visited by means of US41 which runs right in front of it, the same way we took a peek a few weeks ago. Here are some highlights.
A closer look at the steeple, showing a few decorative elements still evident today. The bell that now sits inside here is one from the demolished Catholic church at Gay.
All the original windows had to be replaced – just like this one. The original windows were not stained glass, making the task that much easier. The gothic arch atop each was most likely original.
A rear building sitting behind the church. Originally the building was built with living quarters attached to its rear, but I’m not sure if these ere it. They seem awfully small if they are.
The inside of the church as it appears today. Plexiglas panels keep you from entering, but according to the brochure two artifacts from every Catholic church ever built in Keweenaw or Houghton counties is inside here. (I wonder which church had the six foot priest mannequin).
The church was originally built for $1860 and was based on plans for the Holy Redeemer Church in Eagle Harbor (which the builder of this church also built) Here we leave you with a look at its front facade.