St. Anne’s Church

The great metropolis of Red Jacket was growing dramatically at the dawn of the 20th century as it became home to thousands of immigrants arriving to the region from all across the world. These new arrivals were aliens to an alien world, and would often seek out others who shared their culture and language in order to regain some sense of community in their adopted home. To further that bond these immigrant groups would form their own religious congregations centered around their shared ethnicities – and build their own churches to house them. As a result Red Jacket became home to an exceptionally large number of churches – each catering to a specific ethnic group and each showcasing a design style and aesthetic culturally appropriate to their shared background. For the region’s French Canadian population it would be St. Louis Church that would serve this role – a rather simple wood-framed house of worship erected at the foot of Red Jacket’s main commercial street.

As the new century approached, the old village of Red Jacket had grown into a modern metropolis to rival most any other city in the state. The old wood-framed commercial blocks which once dominated the village’s downtown had been replaced with impressive masonry masterpieces, making the old wood church at the village’s head seem woefully antiquated. Public pressure as well as the pride of the Canadians themselves – prompted the construction of a brand new church more fitting to the city it was now residing within. Finally in 1900 the old St. Louis church was torn down and in its place a soaring new masonry masterpiece took shape – a impressive building that continues to grace Calumet’s downtown still today.

St. Anne's Church in Calumet Michigan
St. Anne’s Church
The new French-Canadian church was nothing short of an architectural masterpiece. Built to resemble the grand gothic cathedrals found back in their ancestral French homeland, the soaring structure looked nothing like anything build in the village before or after. Not only did it resemble those Gothic churches of old, it lathered those sensibilities along the structure so thick it seemed to drip from its maroon incrusted facade. Such grandness did not go unnoticed by the parishioners, as the new grand building would no longer be known as St. Louis Church. Instead this would forever more be known as St. Anne’s – the Patron Saint of French Voyageurs.

At the time of St. Anne’s construction, American architecture was entering a transitional period between the Gothic and Romanesque Revivals. Previously almost every church built along the peninsula would have been built in the Gothic Style, which is easily identified by the use of the pointed arch. After the turn of the century, however, church design began to follow Romanesque principals, which dropped the pointed arch for a more conventional rounded arch. As a result St. Anne’s would be the last great Gothic Church built in the Copper Country, an architectural epitaph to a dying species.

Main Entrance of St. Anne's Church, Calumet
Main Entrance
The most notable characteristic of any Gothic inspired architecture is the use of the pointed arch – an element known as an ogival. This arch is used throughout St. Anne’s but no where is it more prominent then along the churches front facade. Here it is used to frame the building’s trio of main entrances which are recessed into the facade within a series of concentric pointed arches the step their way into the building. These are known as compound arches and are easily the most striking element of St. Anne’s front facade.

Secondary Entrance at St. Anne's Church, Calumet
Secondary Entrance
That main door seen previously is joined by a bookending pair of smaller doors found on either side. These also share the same compound arches, but due to the doors’ more petite size the arches are even more impressive.

The compound arched framed doorways are joined by a few other interesting details, including a carved sandstone plaque above the main entrance,  stained-glass transom windows, and a pair of drip spouts carved out of sandstone blocks protruding out from the building’s facade.

The Front Wall at St. Anne's Church, Calumet
The Front Wall
Also found alongside the church’s front facade is this low sandstone wall. Early photographs of the building do not show this wall, so it looks to be a later addition. Considering it is built from more sandstone, it couldn’t have been too late of an addition. My guess is that the addition was done when the neighboring road was widened, since originally the steps to the church cascading down onto the road directly. Today they turn off to the sides just before reaching the sidewalk.

Compound Arches at St. Anne's Church, Calumet
Compound Arches
In addition to the pointed arch, the second major component of any Gothic structure is its visual emphasis on the vertical. This means that Gothic structures are designed to direct your attention upward along the facade instead of horizontally along its length. This made the Gothic style so appealing to church architects, as such a vertical emphasis helped strengthen the building’s symbolic reach for the heavens.

Looking Up at the Front Facade of St. Anne's Church, Calumet
Looking Up
Following where our eyes lead us we find even more strong vertical elements along the upper facade – including the soaring towering anchoring the building’s north-east corner. Also found here are a series of protruding columns – columns that use to be topped by soaring pinnacles until their removal later in the church’s life.

Buttresses at St. Anne's Church, Calumet
Buttresses
Those vertical elements continue along the church’s other facades, strengthened by the use of these robust buttresses found along the building’s outer walls. While serving a structural role as well, the buttresses also helped send the eye upward, assisted in the effort by the narrow and tall windows found between them. Even without the deception, the church manages an impressive height of 28 feet to its eaves – about 2 and a half stories.

Nave Windows of St. Anne's Church Calumet
Nave Windows
Those windows can be found all along both side facades of the building – 7 on each side. Each window features a pointed arch at its top and is framed by the robust buttresses on either side. They illuminate the church’s nave which takes up the majority of the space within.

Tower Window at St. Anne's Church, Calumet
Tower Window
Another interesting design element utilized by St. Anne’s to emphasize the vertical is the use of random ashlar stones along the building’s walls. As seen in the photo above, this chaotic layering of stones does not allow for distinct horizontal banding (known as coursed stone). Such banding would send the eye horizontally. With the random layers this doesn’t happen. The only place were coursed stone is used is along the buttresses, but their thin and up-reaching nature  overwhelms any horizontal tendencies.

Baptistery of St. Anne's Church, Calumet
Baptistery
At the other end of the building can be found a small protruding bay featuring a trio of narrow windows of its own. This is the church’s baptistery, a small room in which the baptistry font – a ceremonial basin of water – is housed. Below it can be found the glass-block enclosed openings which bring light into the church’s basement. Originally these were just simple framed windows like one would find on a house, but was later filled in with glass block most likely to cut down on heating costs. This large number of windows for the basement was necessary considering the church would run a four-grade school out of the space for many years.

The Apse of St. Anne's Church, Calumet
The Apse
Outback we find another protruding octagonal bay – this one far larger and encompassing however. This is the church’s apse, a large space in which the alter was located. It rises up from the sandstone clan ambulatory but its walls are clad not in stone but in wood shingles. It’s been suggested that this end of the building may have been a later addition as it style and design though similar to the rest of the structure differ in many details. The presence of the wood-framed apse – instead of a masonry one – would suggest that as well. Yet there is no evidence that such a later addition was ever added.

Yet no matter its origins, the church’s apse is largely hidden from view at the far back of the structure. The more important component of St. Anne’s sits at the opposite end of the building – its soaring bell tower anchoring both it and Red Jacket’s downtown as well.

The Tower of St. Anne's Church, Calumet
The Tower
St. Anne’s bell tower soars 80 feet into the air – just over 7 stories. It consists of three “stages”. The first two stages form the tower’s rectangular base, joined by a third stage which houses the belfry itself. That belfry was originally open, but has since been enclosed with plastic windows. The belfry is accented with round turrets on the corners and a 30 foot octagonal spire capped with what looks to be a copper cross at its top.

Most notable about this tower is not its height or decoration, but its placement. Instead of taking up center stage in the center of the building’s facade it sits off center along the building’s corner. This is different than most other churches found in the village, yet another way St. Anne’s differentiates itself from the competition. Here it also serves an important purpose, though, as its position at the corner puts it front and center along 5th Street – making a prominent statement along the village’s main thoroughfare.

Another Look at St. Anne's Church, Calumet
Another Look
Its a position it continues to dominate yet today, even though the church hasn’t seen a service in over half a century. As the Copper Empire faltered,  the village found itself suffering from a mass exodus of people as they moved away in search of work. St. Anne’s suffered as well as its own congregation shrunk in size. A consolidation of the villages Catholic Churches in the 1960s resulted in St. Anne’s closure and its subsequent deconsecration in 1966. It was sold to a private owner in 1971, who utilized the space as a flea market for several years.

In the early 1990s the building was in danger of loosing its stained glass windows and other architectural elements as it’s owners looked to remove any items of value for resale. Luckily these plans came to light, and public outrage resulted in the building’s purchase by a non-profit organization who looked to preserve and not pillage the old church. The building was extensively renovated and upgraded, and today serves as the home to the Keweenaw Heritage Center – a museum dedicated to the people and heritage of Calumet and the surrounding area.

Discuss…

  1. Before anyone else decides to say it, this church has the distinction of being in a very bad low budget horror movie called “Children of the Night”. In the movie vampires slept in the church’s flooded basement, until awakened by some teenage swimmers. Although the interior of the church was a sound-stage, all the exterior shots were of this church.

    I saw the movie once and it wasn’t very good. As I remember, a van crashed into the churches main entrance in the movie, Not sure if it was the actual St. Anne’s or a model. The movie was made back in the 80’s I believe.

  2. Ive always love the old churches, weather its here or in downtown Detroit, theirs something about them.

    Isnt there another low budget movie with gay in it?

  3. “Isnt there another low budget movie with gay in it?”

    I am so not going there… not me…nope not going there at all… :)

  4. I believe it would be Gay with a capitol letter like the town of. Yes a movie was done out there, some filming was done down on the sands a little to the south of the mill ruins. But the name escapes me.

  5. May have been the same movie because the 1980’s sounds right.

  6. I did some digging. The name of the movie is Mindwarp (1992):

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100152/

    “Will Judy be able to escape the horrors of this futuristic, toxic wasteland?”

  7. Dug some more, here’s a preview of the movie on YouTube. You can clearly see the sands in portions of the preview.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZVmrwXyxgI

  8. The Library of Congress has a bit on it, too.
    http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.mi0476

  9. I remember them shooting the movie at St. Anne’s. My dad took us up there when we were young. We sat behind the Union building and watched them. They were setting up for the scene where the van crashed into the church. They had the van at the top of a dirt hill in the car dealership parking lot.

    Funny the random things you remember. :P

  10. Stunning images, Mike. Simply beautiful. This thread was truly begging for your HD treatment. Well done.

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