Description of Historic Place
The building at 350 Huron Church Road, known as Assumption Church (also known as Our Lady of the Assumption Church), is situated at the intersection of Huron Church Road and University Avenue West, in the City of Windsor. The brick building was designed in the Gothic style by architect Robert Thomas Elliot and was constructed between 1842 and 1845. The tower and apse were added in 1874, and the sacristy and Rosary Chapel were added in 1907.
The elements protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust Conservation Easement include the exterior (church, sacristy and Rosary Chapel), selected elements of the interior, and scenic character of the property. In 1984, a provincial historical plaque was erected to Fr. Pierre Potier by the Ontario Heritage Foundation (now the Ontario Heritage Trust). The property is also designated by the City of Windsor under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 5893).
Assumption Church is associated with French colonial settlement in Ontario, with the Jesuit Mission to the Hurons and with being the first Roman Catholic parish established in the province. Settlement on what was known as the South Shore (present day Windsor) of the Detroit River began in 1748 when the Huron Mission was moved from Bois Blanc by Jesuit Fr. Armand de la Richardie and located near the site of the present Assumption Church. By the 1750s, French families were farming on the South Shore and were served by the Parish of Ste-Anne de Détroit. In 1767, under Fr. Pierre Potier, the Mission became Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption, the first parish in Ontario. In 1787, the second wooden church was constructed, with a hand-carved wooden Baroque pulpit with spiral stairs by François Frérot, a woodcarver. This piece was moved to the present Assumption Church and it remains today. In 1831, Fr. Angus Macdonell became pastor and had plans for a new church (present church). These plans were drawn up by architect Robert Thomas Elliot, in 1834. The cornerstone was laid on July 7, 1842. The church was constructed under the direction of master mason, Jacques Reaume, and the contractor was Hugh Moffat. The Jesuits, expelled in 1763, returned to take charge of the new facility, and under Fr. Point, the new church was completed. It opened on July 20, 1845. In 1856, Assumption became part of the Diocese of London, and for a brief period (1859-1869), Bishop Pinnsoneault moved the Episcopal See to the church. It became the Cathedral of Assumption, and a new Bishop's Palace was constructed. In 1870, the Basilians took charge of Assumption Parish and Assumption College (predecessor to the University of Windsor), founded by the Jesuits in 1857.
Assumption Church is significant for its perpendicular Gothic-revival design. Designed in 1834, by architect Robert Thomas Elliot, construction began in 1842. The church is constructed of a distinctly French style brick (long and narrow), from local brown clay, which was made on-site. The northwest (front) façade has a central tower flanked by two side bays. The tower bay contains the main entrance, wooden double doors with pointed-arch windows, and a pointed-arch window with an oculi above a pair of lancet windows. Four copper finials surround the base of the copper spire. The two, symmetrical, side bays contain wooden double doors with pointed arched windows and a pointed arched window above. The side walls are divided into six bays with lancet windows defined by, octagonal, supporting buttresses. A pierced balustrade above the eaves, between the copper buttress finials, contains smaller metal finials. All the copper finials are topped with a fleur-de-lis and ornamented with crockets. The southeast end of the church terminates in a five-sided apse, with stained glass windows and wood-foil tracery. In 1874, Fr. O'Connor had the sacristy and tower built, which were a part of the original plans, and in 1893 Fr. Semande installed a new bell. The red brick sacristy and Rosary Chapel were constructed in 1907, and rebuilt in 1998. Significant interior elements include; the central nave with side isles, wooden pews, and decorative vaulting. Interior additions include; the apsidal chancel built in 1870; stained glass windows installed in 1882; stone altar added in 1887 and; the decorative tile and communion rail of Italian marble which were added in 1925.
Source: OHT Easement Files
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of Assumption Church include its:
- Baroque pulpit of carved wood with spiral stair by Frérot.
- perpendicular massing related to its Gothic Revival design
- brown brick construction
- northwest (front) three bay symmetrical façade
- central tower with copper clad spire
- four copper finials that surround the base of the spire
- cross which tops the spire
- wooden double entrance doors with pointed arched windows
- pair of lancet windows above the main entrance
- pointed arched Gothic window with an inset bulls eye window and the pointed arched windows above the side bay entrance doors
- six-bay side walls with large lancet windows
- buttress and copper finials flanking the centre tower at opposite ends of the northwest façade
- pierced metal balustrade above the eaves between the copper buttress finials that also contains smaller finials
- fleur-de-lis on top of each copper finial and crocket ornamentation
- five-sided apse on southeast façade and the five stained glass windows with foil tracery on the apse
- buttress and copper finials framing the southeast façade
- bell, installed in 1893
- 1907 Rosary Chapel in red brick with pointed arched windows
- 1907 sacristy adjoining the church and chapel in red brick.
- central nave with side isles
- choir gallery at the north entrance above the central nave
- decorative vaulting
- 1787 pulpit with spiral stairs
- apsidal chancel added in 1874
- stained glass windows added in 1882
- stone altar added in 1887
- communion rail in carved Italian marble added in 1925
- tile with white field with fleur-de-lis in blue, alternating with a cross added to the sanctuary in 1925
- siting on a location in the historic community of Sandwich, now part of the City of Windsor
- view shed overlooking the Detroit River
- view shed of Ste- Anne's de Détroit across the Detroit River
- proximity to the University of Windsor
- proximity to historic Huron Church Road
- proximity to Assumption Park, the former mission site
- metal fence surrounding the property
- open space around the building and mature trees to the west and north of the church