Assumption Church: A History

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Walking down University Avenue on a brisk summer day one can look over to see the ever-standing Assumption Church. With its brick molding and copper peaks acting as a gatekeeper to the University, it is truly a sight to behold. Upon further inspection a person can begin to see the effects of father time on this old church. Whether it be the crumbling molding, or tattered pains, it is clear time has had its toll on Assumption Church.

As Larry Kulisek, previous Associate Professor of History at the University of Windsor, was asked the question “do you feel Assumption Church is worth saving?” he took deep breath, only momentarily pausing before responding; “maybe in the digital future there is no room for physical remnants of the past.”

Side view of Assumption church taken in 1915 by The Dionysian : year book of Assumption College, Sandwich, Ontario, Canada, volume 1, 1915 / edited by the Graduating Class, 1915. Page 12.

Side view of Assumption church taken in 1915 by The Dionysian : year book of Assumption College, Sandwich, Ontario, Canada, volume 1, 1915 / edited by the Graduating Class, 1915. Page 12.

Originally called the Mission of Our Lady of the Assumption among the Hurons in Detroit, by Jesuit missionaries in 1728 the church remains Ontario’s oldest continued parish. That being said, the church was not officially canonized until 1767.

This was just the beginning of Assumption’s story. In 1842 the cornerstone of today’s church was laid; laying the foundation for Assumption College in 1857. At this point the infamous Basilian Fathers from the diocese of London began to staff and run Assumption College.

In the school’s early years it was not only a college, but a high school. If we look a little deeper, it was actually four schools under one roof. There was a preparatory school for grades five to eight, a two-year commercial course, a three-year high school equivalent, and a four-year university Arts course.

Currently Dillion Hall was used as the classroom building by high school and college students. It was known as the Arts building until it was officially changed to Dillion Hall in 1957. The building was named Dillion Hall after Daniel Leo Dillion; who was the president of Assumption college for two terms. This picture was taken in 1930 Basilides : Assumption College 1870-1930 / published by the students of Assumption on the occasion of the College's Diamond Jubilee, 1930. Page 16.

Currently Dillion Hall was used as the classroom building by high school and college students. It was known as the Arts building until it was officially changed to Dillion Hall in 1957. The building was named Dillion Hall after Daniel Leo Dillion; who was the president of Assumption college for two terms. This picture was taken in 1930 Basilides : Assumption College 1870-1930 / published by the students of Assumption on the occasion of the College’s Diamond Jubilee, 1930. Page 16.

As of 1890, the school was not only attracting people from the Windsor Border region, but from parts of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, even as far away as Kentucky.

The school remained a standard college classique until Father Francis Foster took over in 1907 dragging the school into the new century. He affiliated the Assumption Art School with the University of Western Ontario, installed electricity, and restructured the Arts program to match that of most modern universities.

As the school progressed into the future, as did the church. With renovation like an expanded altar, and a communal rail to accommodate the growing population of the region, the church remained the cornerstone of the Sandwich region.

Front of Assumption Church taken in 1920. By Golden Jubilee : Assumption College 1870-1920. Page 19

Front of Assumption Church taken in 1920. By Golden Jubilee : Assumption College 1870-1920. Page 19

Although the past can forever be discussed, the future of the church remains unknown, as a possible permanent closure looms in the cold November air.

When asked about the current state of affairs within Assumption Church, Kulisek respond with words that only be described as profound; “whether there’ll be a revival of religion again or whether we’re moving towards a more secular society in which nothing will be safe in terms of what we had assumed had historical relevance to where we will be going [is yet to be determined].”

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  • about.me#1

    January 7, 2015

    Good article. I absolutely love this site. Stick with it!

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