Scaffolding that's surrounded historic church's steeples since May will come down next month; roof repair next on parish's list
DETROIT — If you walk down St. Anne Street in Detroit with the Ambassador Bridge behind you, one of the first sights you'll see is mammoth scaffolding surrounding one of the two steeples of the historic Basilica of Ste. Anne.
However, by mid-November, the scaffolding will be gone, signaling the end of “Phase 1-A” of renovations to one of the city's most iconic churches, built in 1886.
Fundraising and planning for renovations on the 137-year-old structure began before COVID-19, but the pandemic slowed down efforts to raise the necessary funds for the multi-million-dollar repairs, which include the steeples and roof.
The preparation phase began last fall, Msgr. Charles Kosanke, the basilica's rector, told Detroit Catholic, which included cleaning out the steeples and towers of “biohazardous materials.”
“Before workers could actually get in, we had to do the environmental cleaning of the two towers,” Msgr. Kosanke explained. “Also, in the two towers were ladders that were there from when the church was built in 1886 that were no longer OSHA-compliant, so we had to put in the infrastructure so that workers could get into the tower in a safe manner.”
The towers have been under construction since May, and the $3 million renovation has been paid in full. The renovations will officially be complete by the end of October, and the scaffolding will come down in November, Msgr. Kosanke said.
At the current rate of fundraising and repair time, the roof will likely be completed by 2025, Msgr. Kosanke added, which will cost around $4 million.
Following the roof, Msgr. Kosanke said the parish plans to turn its attention to the heating and cooling, followed by the stained-glass windows and exterior walls of the church. However, the entire process will take considerable time and money because of the age of the building.
Although there are still some years ahead before the basilica is fully renovated, this November, there will be an opportunity to celebrate what has been completed.
“In the east tower is the famous Beaubien bell from 1848, which is a huge bell that you ring by rope, and in the west tower are 10 carillon bells, and so the exciting part of celebrating the conclusion of (renovations) is for those bells to ring for the first time in 25 years,” Msgr. Kosanke said.
There will be an occasion announced to mark the ringing of the bells for the first time in decades, Msgr. Kosanke added.
While the restorations are important, Msgr. Kosanke is more excited about the renewal of the parish itself.
“At the same time that we’ve been restoring the church building, which is very important because we need a place of prayer and worship to spiritually feed the congregation, we also have been renewing the parish,” Msgr. Kosanke explained.
In the last five years, the parish has gone from 500 to 700 families, and Msgr. Kosanke said various groups and apostolates have been formed within the parish to engage parishioners. The basilica also has become a popular place for weddings, and the number of nuptials celebrated there has tripled.
“Brick and mortar are important, and we want to do that so we can use the church in the future, but it is the community that’s of most importance,” Msgr. Kosanke said.