Archdiocese sells Inn at St. John’s to late Catholic philanthropist’s family estate

The Archdiocese of Detroit has sold the Inn at St. John’s complex in Plymouth, which includes a golf, conference and hotel center, to the estate of the late William J. Pulte, both parties announced Aug. 2. The site of the former St. John’s Provincial Seminary includes a Catholic chapel, which will continue to be available for weddings. (Courtesy of the Inn at St. John’s)

Former St. John’s Provincial Seminary saw revival as a golf, hotel and conference center in the 2000s; Pulte family will continue operations

PLYMOUTH — The Archdiocese of Detroit will sell the Inn at St. John’s hotel, golf and conference complex in Plymouth to the family estate of the late homebuilder and Catholic philanthropist William J. Pulte, the archdiocese and Pulte family announced Aug. 2.

Pulte Family Management SJ LLC, a wholly owned for-profit entity of the William J. Pulte Trust, said in a joint news release with the archdiocese that the sale was completed July 30. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

The complex is the site of the former St. John’s Provincial Seminary, which educated and formed seminarians to the priesthood for Michigan’s seven Catholic dioceses from 1948 to 1988. The seminary’s graduate school of theology served thousands of students until the establishment of Sacred Heart Major Seminary’s own graduate theology school in the late 1980s. 

St. John's Provincial Seminary is pictured in this undated photo standing on 170 acres in Plymouth. After its closure and the transfer of its theologate to Sacred Heart Seminary in 1988, the property has since been used as a venue for conferences, retreats and weddings, and also features a hotel. (Detroit Catholic file photo)

Although St. John’s Provincial Seminary closed in 1988, Cardinal Adam J. Maida revived the property in the 1990s as a center for youth and families. 

With the help of several local Catholic business leaders, including Pulte, the complex was redeveloped into a world-class hotel and conference center in the 2000s, including a 27-hole golf course, a stately grand ballroom and fine dining. It also includes a Catholic chapel that hosts dozens of weddings each year.

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said in a letter to priests the decision to sell the property was motivated in part by the “considerable challenges of a Catholic organization operating a hotel conference center — especially during the pandemic” and expressed gratitude to the Pulte family for continuing its operations it going forward.

“This purchase is yet another example of the Pulte family’s longstanding commitment to southeast Michigan and the local Church in Detroit,” Archbishop Vigneron said.

Through an agreement with the Pulte family, the archdiocese will enter a long-term lease of the chapel — which will be renamed the Chapel of Mary and Joseph to distinguish it as a separate entity from the rest of the St. John’s complex — “to ensure it remains a source of beauty and blessing for local Catholics for years to come,” the archbishop said.

Clergy process out of the St. John’s Chapel during a conference in 2015. Since it closed as a major seminary in 1988, the St. John’s complex has continued to serve as a place for civic, business and church events, as well as a robust wedding ministry. (Michael Stechschulte | Detroit Catholic)

“I am particularly glad to share that the onsite chapel will remain available for Catholic weddings and other Masses,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Built in 1955, St. John Chapel has served as a reverential and holy backdrop for countless Catholic wedding ceremonies and thus holds a special place in the hearts of local Catholics, including many of us in the clergy.”

Mark Pulte, son of the late William J. Pulte, said his father “would have loved this moment as he played a significant role in the vision for the campus from the beginning.” 

“The Inn at St. John’s was near and dear to my father’s heart,” Mark Pulte said. “He was honored to work with Cardinal Maida on the transformation of this beautiful property and to have played a role in its success. When the Archdiocese expressed interest in selling the property, my father’s estate was a natural choice. They knew that it would be in good hands.”

William J. Pulte, founder of one of the country’s largest real estate developers, PulteGroup Inc., died in 2018 at the age of 85. In addition to his homebuilding empire, Pulte donated to several local Catholic charitable causes — often anonymously — and was “a man of great religious faith,” Cardinal Maida said in 2018 at Pulte’s passing. 

The late William J. Pulte, who built and managed one of the largest homebuilding companies in the United States, died in 2018. He was a silent benefactor for many Catholic charitable causes and a “man of great religious faith,” said Cardinal Adam J. Maida. 
Reliefs of Jesus and the apostles are pictured at an entryway of the St. John’s complex in Plymouth. The chapel — renamed the Chapel of Mary and Joseph — will continue to host Catholic weddings and liturgies.

A graduate of De La Salle High School in Detroit, Pulte was revealed after his death to have silently given more than $17 million to establish and operate the Angel Fund, a no-questions-asked lifeline administered by Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck parishes to help struggling inner-city families meet basic living expenses.

Pulte was a member of a small group of local Catholic business leaders who helped Cardinal Maida redevelop the Inn at St. John’s, which saw three phases of construction and expansion from 1994 to 2006. 

In 1996, the St. John’s Center for Youth and Family began offering retreats on the complex’s south side, and two years later, work began to redevelop the complex’s main facility into a center for corporate and civic conferences. 

After 10 acres of land were purchased from Northville Township to expand the center’s recreational footprint, the St. John’s Golf and Conference Center opened in 2000. 

That September, the archdiocese hosted one of the largest Catholic events at the newly redesigned center, a Eucharistic congress that attracted thousands of attendees from across southeast Michigan to celebrate Jubilee 2000 and the Church’s launch into the new millennium. 

Cardinal Adam J. Maida, with then-Fr. Jeffrey Monforton (now bishop of Steubenville, Ohio), presides during a Eucharistic Congress in 2000 at St. John’s Center in Plymouth. (Peplin Photographic | Detroit Catholic file photo)
The lobby of the Inn at St. John’s features elegant seating and decor. The conference center hosts some of Metro Detroit’s largest annual events, including the Concours d’Elegance. (Courtesy of the Inn at St. John’s)

In 2005, a grand ballroom was added with seating for 450 guests, and in 2006, the center saw the opening of the privately owned and financed Inn at St. John’s hotel with 118 luxury guestrooms, expanded conference and banquet capabilities and fine dining steakhouse. 

Archbishop Vigneron said after consulting with lay leaders and clergy, it was determined that the archdiocese’s ownership stake in the complex and its resources could be better used to support the Church’s missionary evangelization efforts.

“Regarding proceeds, our focus will be on supporting missionary initiatives and the work of evangelization in the Archdiocese of Detroit,” the archbishop said. “In consultation with the Finance Council and College of Consultors, I am developing a plan for these funds and will share the results of this work at our next meeting with the presbyterate in September.”

Further details about the sale, as well as the history of the St. John’s complex, are available in an updated Sharing the Light communication, the archbishop added. The archdiocese’s operation of the center was self-sustaining, and archdiocesan funds were not used to maintain the complex before it was sold. 

The archdiocese will develop a plan to use the proceeds of the sale to further the archdiocese’s missionary evangelization efforts in the spirit of Synod 16, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said. (Courtesy of the Inn at St. John’s) 

Pulte Family Management SJ LLC has said the hotel, conference rooms and reception centers will continue to serve business, civic and private events, and the golf course will continue with daily tee times, leagues and outings. Future plans and upgrades will be announced in the coming months.

Mark Pulte said his father would have been proud to see the center come full circle, and happy to see it continue to serve the community.

“He was passionate about helping others and he was a creative thinker,” Mark Pulte said. “We are in the unique position to seamlessly integrate both his vision and values with the purchase as well as continue to make an impact with its future successes.”

The Inn at St. John’s complex is located in western Wayne County off Five Mile Road between Sheldon and Northville Roads.