St. Anne’s Revisited (p2)

This Thursday the Keweenaw Heritage Center will have its opening night reception, featuring yours truly as the guest speaker. I will be giving a talk on architectural heritage, featuring some of Calumet’s less known historical figures and their contributions to the village’s landscape. In honor of this event, I’ve preempted our previously scheduled conclusion of the Victoria Mine tour to provide an exclusive inside look at the Heritage Center, which resides in the former St. Anne’s Church on Fifth Street in Calumet. We’ll return to our regular schedule programming next week….

A great deal of what made St. Anne’s a church has unfortunately been removed since it deconsecration, including its pews, high alter, and sanctuary railing. But there’s still a few relics of the old place of worship laying around to appreciate. Most notable of these artifacts are St. Anne’s side alters and pulpit, all three of which sit up front straddling the apse.

Here’s one of those side alters, though both are identical. This one sits on the church’s left side, the same side as the pulpit. This particular model is highly ornate and features more then a few gothic attributes including the use of pointed arches, an abundance of spinals, and an obvious emphasis on the vertical. I’m not sure is this is standard fair, but the side alters at St. Paul’s are of a vary different – and more romanesque – style. I would guess these alters are built in the same style as the rest of the church in which they reside.

A few details to share, starting with these columns found at either end of the alter’s front face. More of that odd red tinting can be seen here as well.

Perhaps more interesting is this inscription found within the alter’s lower front face, an inscription that is also found on its twin across the aisle. The inscription is in French (which is to be expected) and roughly reads “given by the Society of St. John the Baptist, 1901”. The Society of St. John the Baptist (Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste) is a French-Canadian organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of French Catholic heritage. The society continues to exists still today, and is most widely known for establishing St. John the Baptist day (June 24), a national holiday in Quebec.

The most interesting feature of these alters are their French Gothic styling. The French Influence on Gothic architecture was one of flamboyance and over exuberance, characteristics clearly demonstrated here, especially in the overly frenetic spindling along the alter’s top.

Even more such gothic flamboyance is on display over at the church’s old pulpit, which stands in front of the east altar.

As intriguing as the alters and pulpit may be, there’s one last relic of the building’s religious origins that is perhaps the most impressive – the church organ.

As is traditional, St. Anne’s pipe organ stands up on the choir loft, which looks down over the nave from the back of the building. Since such an instrument was a standard feature of church’s built at the time, the architects of St. Anne’s made sure to design a space specifically for it.

Unfortunately the organ that sits in that spot today is not the church’s original, that organ was removed decades ago. The organ seen here is from the neighboring Swedish Lutheran Church and is built for a much smaller and more intimate venue. But most likely St. Anne’s original pipe organ was of the same make as this one, which was built in 1899 at the Barckhoff Church Organ Company in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

The Barckhoff family were German organ makers who immigrated to this country in 1885, bringing with them their considerable skill and craftsmanship. Their company would build over 3000 such organs during the company’s existence, placed in amazing churches found all across the country. This particular model served the neighboring Swedish Lutheran congregation for over 60 years, until the church closed its doors in the late ’60s. At that time the organ was removed from the abandoned church and placed in the care of the church’s pastor, who built a specialized outbuilding at his home in Dollar Bay to house it (and occasionally play it). After the pastor’s death, the organ was donated to the Heritage Center, where it was installed here after renovations to the loft were complete.

To Be Continued…

The Keweenaw Heritage Center opening night reception is Thursday, June 23 at 7pm. The Heritage Center is inside the former St. Anne’s church, at the corner of Scott and Fifth Streets in historic downtown Calumet. Hope to see some of you there!

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  1. Is it possible that the red material on the carvings is gilding wax? One “recipe” for this is beeswax and red ocher. It is used to hold gold leaf on parts of carvings.

  2. I like your thinking ashcat. That sounds like a much better explanation then my rather simplistic “red paint”

    Gordy and Bill – I think I’ll stay away from the pulpit. I don’t want to push my luck.

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