Description of Historic Place
St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church is an imposing Romanesque style brick and limestone church located at 891 St. Rose Avenue, just south of Wyandotte Street East, in the former Town of Riverside (now part of the east end of the City of Windsor). As the visual anchor on St. Rose Street, the church has been a neighbourhood landmark since it was built in 1924, when the Riverside area was largely undeveloped.
It is recognized for its heritage value by City of Windsor By-law 214-2008.
St. Rose of Lima Church was built in 1924 and was the first church of any denomination in the former Town of Riverside (amalgamated with Windsor in 1966). The church was built because the population of the Windsor area was growing rapidly, and urban development was expanding eastward along the Detroit River. With the expansion of the automotive industry and the influx of immigration to the area, the parish church, Our Lady of the Lake in Ford City (now Our Lady of the Rosary), was becoming overcrowded. Rev. F.X. Laurendeau received permission from the Diocese of London to build a new church and Alfred St. Louis, Alphonse St. Louis and Eugene Mailloux generously donated the land, and it was constructed by Blonde Contractors of Chatham in 1924.
St. Rose of Lima was designed by renowned local architect John Boyde in the Romanesque Revival style. Some of the finest public buildings in Windsor can be attributed to Boyde, he was often called upon by the Roman Catholic Diocese of London during the first half of the twentieth century. Some 2,500 people reportedly attended the cornerstone laying ceremony on June 21, 1924. The church was completed by October and the first mass was held in the building on November 16, 1924.
The most striking feature of the church is the central 60-foot high entrance tower with double wooden doors with crucifix design, limestone panels, central arched stained glass window and panel with the words “Ste Rose.” There is a trio of louvered arched windows on each of three sides of the bell tower, above the stepped brick buttresses flanking the tower. The tower is topped by a brick castellated parapet with stone capping and an illuminated cross. Three unpainted limestone courses give the front tower its horizontal elements: at about the four foot level, at the arched window and at the bottom of the parapet wall. Behind the tower/buttresses is the main body of the church with a steep gable roof – originally of wooden shingles. Brick pilasters with stone coping divide the windows (of mixed styles) on the east and west facades.
Built in the Romanesque Revival style, the building has a solid, heavy appearance, brick construction (common bond with full headers every sixth course), rounded window openings, and the parapeted entrance tower. The red brick is offset by limestone trim. The interior of the church has a domed ceiling in the Nave, reflective of the Romanesque design. Also reflective of the Romanesque style are the beautiful original stained glass windows.
St. Rose of Lima church is significant because it was the first church of any denomination to be built in former Town of Riverside, a “bedroom” community that was amalgamated with Windsor in 1966. The church was built before anything else existed in the area, and has always been a community/neighbourhood landmark. For decades it served as a community center and recreational facility for area residents. Continued urban development in the Riverside area caused the St. Rose Parish membership to grow from 150 families to over 1000 families by 1951. This necessitated that daughter parishes be established: Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish (1951), St. John Vianney (1955), and St. Thomas the Apostle (1965).
Even though urban development now surrounds the property, the visual prominence of St. Rose of Lima Church from the major arterial roads in the vicinity remains. The front of the church is the anchor of the vista looking south along St. Rose Avenue from the north. The church can be seen clearly from Riverside Drive and Wyandotte Street – the two major east-west roads in the area.
Sources: Designation Report, May 9, 2007; City of Windsor By-law 214-2008.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of St. Rose of Lima Church include its:
- Red brick construction (common bond with full headers every sixth course) with limestone trim
- Central 60-foot high parapeted entrance tower with double wooden doors (with crucifix design), limestone panels (central one with the words “Ste. Rose”),
- Romanesque style original stained glass windows, including a central arched stained glass window, a trio of open-arched windows on each of three sides of the bell tower.
- Brick castellated parapet with limestone capping.
- Nave with steep gable roof – originally covered with wooden shingles.
- Brick pilasters with stone coping that divide the windows (of mixed styles).
- Visual prominence from the major arterial roads in the vicinity – serving as the terminus of the vista along St. Rose Avenue from the north.