St. Anthony Playground – Park 46

In summer 2015, the city came through and removed the fencing and volunteer trees lining all sides of this playground. Unsure if this property was ever sold to a private buyer.  As mentioned below, there was really nothing left in this playground other than some antiquated basketball courts; however  they got a lot use from the neighborhood teens and adults. There are some great folks that live across from the park. Hopefully, any reuse  will continue to improve the neighborhood and increase the community pride north of Gratiot.

Summertime - church and playground. Photo: Courtesy of Danielle Barrett
Summertime – church and playground. Photo: Courtesy of Danielle Barrett

St. Anthony Church located on Sheridan St. [north off Gratiot- look for the steeple] was founded in 1857. The church’s centennial anniversary book tells the story of the naming of the church as well as the town surrounding it.  Hippolyte St. Bernard, a relation of the Campau family was the landowner in this area.  He wanted to sell his land, but couldn’t find the deed.  In 1857, it was finally located and the naming reflected the patron saint of lost articles – St Anthony.  The town was comprised of German families and in 1875 had its own post office.

The first church built on the site in 1857 was a one story frame building.  It was considered a mission.  St. Anthony’s Orphanage Asylum was located on the church property from 1867 to 1889, operated by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart.  The town of St. Anthony disappeared in 1891 when it was annexed by Detroit. The popularity of the neighborhood increased with German immigrants and the church expanded to its Romanesque cathedral shape in early 1900. Gratiot Avenue was known as the Kurfurstendamm  of mid-America,  a description comparable to the high end street in Berlin which is still a fashionable place to shop, dine and live.

St. Anthony parish offered the neighborhood parochial education beginning in 1926.  In 1969, decline begun and it absorbed congregants from other closed Catholic parishes; the high school was renamed East Catholic High School.  In 2005-2006, both the school and church closed.  Within one year, the property was pursued for purchase by Bishop Dr. Karl Rodig and reopened in 2010 as the Ecumenical Catholic Church of Christ.  The church continues on today.  This parish welcomes all regardless of sexual preference, political preference, religious creed or marital status.  They also support the Elephants in the Living Room.  Refreshing..last time I checked Jesus wanted us to love everyone.

St. Anthony High circa 1951. Photo: 1951 Antholite
St. Anthony High circa 1951. Photo:  Antholite 1951
1951 girls basketball.. I love how they led the Athletics section of the yearbook with the girl's basketball team. Photo: 1951
The Athletics section of the yearbook  was led with the girl’s basketball team. Nice!  Photo: 1951 Antholite 

St. Anthony Playground is still a popular place for neighborhood basketball.  Little to nothing is left in the park except for a few courts in the NW corner and many volunteer trees.  At one time, this park contained swings, slides, tennis courts, shelter house and a baseball diamond.  Recreation staff manned the park, maximizing fun for neighborhood kids with organized activities.  Perhaps, it served as a playfield for the school, yet it is listed as city owned property in annual reports.

There were many accounts of the history of St. Anthony but few mentioned the town. Thanks to the generosity of researcher Gene Scott for his authoritative work.  ag