Our Lady of the Rosary Parish was founded in 1889, with Father Francis VanAntwerp as Pastor. The first Mass was celebrated in the Barnes family home on Harper, just East of Woodward. Within months, a frame church was built next to the Barnes home, which was purchased for a rectory. As Detroit grew, the area around Rosary attracted more people, and the frame church was expanded twice within fifteen years. A school was also started.
The expansion also touched St. Joseph's Episcopal Church, build near Woodward and Medbury in 1884. A grand new church, designed by Malcolmson and Higginbotham, architects of Wayne State's Old Main, and of Cass Methodist Church, was built in 1893. Shortly after the turn of the century, St. Joseph's was closed, as the Episcopal Diocese devoted all its energy into the building of St. Paul's Cathedral, only blocks away. Around 1905, members of the old St. Joseph's wanted to reopen the parish. They sold the church complex to Our Lady of the Rosary, and moved to Woodward and Holbrook. Fr. VanAntwerp expanded the old Episcopal church, adding stained glass and artifacts from Europe. A new rectory on Woodward was purchased, a new convent built, and a school complex built on the site of the original frame church.
Rosary prospered under Fr. VanAntwerp's leadership. People packed all the Masses. A Deagan carillon was added to the tower beneath the gold statue of Our Lady brought from Paris. The fame of Rosary's choir spread around the city. Fr. VanAntwerp was made a Monsignor, and Vicar General of the Diocese. Even after his death in 1930, his good name was kept alive by Fr. Van's Boys, who met regularly to carry on his good works.
In the 1930's and 1940's, Rosary continued its prominent role. The statue on the tower was moved from a parapet to the center. The widening of Woodward in 1938 cost us our front lawn. Wartime industries brought new people to the area.
After World War II, Rosary went through a period of consolidation. The Edsel Ford Freeway cut through the Parish, taking our rectory and convent. The school closed as families moved away, but soon reopened as Salesian High School. The neighborhood became more commercial and institutional. A new rectory was built, new organ replaced in 1890's instrument, and the church was again remodeled for its 75t anniversary.
Rosary began a new epoch in the mid-1970's, as new members joined the Parish and stayed, becoming very involved in the liturgy and operation. The church was once again remodeled to meet the guidelines of Vatican II. The school was torn down in 1979. New areas of ministry opened – adult foster care home residents, refugees, students, the alienated and oppressed. By the time of our 100th anniversary, we could rejoice that we were still open, still serving God, still aiding our brothers and sisters. Strengthened by new friends from the former St. Theresa of Avila Parish, Rosary looks forward to a future of worship and service.