Saturday, January 8, 2011

Vanished Rochester: Old St. Andrew

St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church is one of Rochester's largest congregations today, and has most certainly not "vanished," but the building that served as its home for nearly half a century has, indeed, disappeared from Rochester's landscape.
The congregation had celebrated its first mass in Rochester in 1912, and two years later purchased a lot on the southwest corner of Walnut and Third streets. In 1923-24, construction of a new church facility was begun with the excavation of the basement. The congregation used the enclosed basement for several years and completed the construction of the church building on a pay-as-you-go basis over the next several years.
As Rochester experienced robust population growth in the post-World War II era, so did the St. Andrew congregation, and the church on Walnut Street became increasingly inadequate for its needs. A new site in the northeast corner of town was purchased and the parish began using its new facility there in 1969, placing the Walnut Street property on the market.
The old church was first optioned by a developer who envisioned placing boutique businesses in the building, but those plans fell through and the City of Rochester purchased the site with the intention of adding much-needed parking spots for the downtown business district. The planned demolition of old St. Andrew sparked a major public outcry, and an effort to stop it was led by a local architect. More than 500 petition signatures were gathered during a two-day demonstration on Main Street, complete with a parade and band music, and letters of support were gathered from local industrial leaders. The Oakland County Pioneer and Historical Society weighed in as well, calling the impending destruction of old St. Andrew an "irreparable loss." On the other side of the argument, city council members were firmly convinced that their duty lay in solving downtown's critical parking shortage, and after some last-minute legal wrangling, gave the order for the bulldozers to roll. On July 24, 1972, old St. Andrew passed into the pages of vanished Rochester.

1 comment:

  1. I'll always remember the scene of old St. Andrews the evening of the first day of its demolition: the rear half of the church, with the alter wall, was still standing, but the front half of the building was complete rubble. I remember thinking how it looked like a scene out of a WWII photograph taken after an air raid, except this was in color. It remains a sad memory for me.

    John Mohr