DETROIT: Cruisin’ Gratiot….

25 May

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In a yet to be revitalized area of the city, the Assumption Of The Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church has been standing on this very spot since 1847, today it is better known as Assumption Grotto Catholic Church, the building you see today was put up in 1929. The limestone Neo-Gothic structure faces Gratiot Ave, three elongated, arched windows top three ornate wooden doors, wrought iron lanterns hang from winged brackets. Inside the church only a handful of lights are on, there’s still about 30 minutes until Mass.

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Overhead lights illuminate the altar, the marble altarpiece is spectacular. The simple stone interior is adorned with brightly colored stained glass windows, archways line the nave. I look to the back of the church where the organ loft is located, my eyes are drawn to the gorgeous wood-beamed ceiling, funny I didn’t notice that right away. More lights are turned on, candles are being lit, more worshipers arrive. Now painted patterns on ceiling beams are obvious, I can see details in the Italian marble altars, gates and communion rails. The organist has started, Mass is about to begin. 

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Behind the church is a cemetery, scattered through the park-like setting statues stand atop tombstones, crosses vary in size and design, the names Schoenherr, Rivard and Trombley can be found here. Some tombstones are in German, French and English, others resemble rocks with inset designs. A Pelican stands atop the headstone of Father Amandus Vandendriessche, the first pastor of Assumption Grotto (1852). The oldest stones we see are from the 1840’s and 50’s.

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We follow the paved walkway through the cemetery, past the stations of the cross that line each side, to the grotto. It’s a pretty big deal. In 1876 Father V visited the Sanctuary Of Our Lady of Lourdes in France, he was so inspired he decided to build his own holy grotto right here in Detroit; he laid the cornerstone in 1881, it’s been here ever since. In 1882 Pope Leo XII signed a proclamation “granting partial and plenary indulgences” for anyone who visited the grotto and prayed for propagation of the faith, which brought thousands of pilgrims to worship at the shrine. Those sick in mind, body and soul have prayed for the aid of the blessed virgin.

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The grotto is constructed of limestone, boulders around the shrine were carried by farmers from all over Michigan, the fountain in front of the shrine has not been turned on yet. Brick pavers fill the space between the fountain and grotto, a single wooden kneeler faces the open archway. A statue of the Virgin Mary sets high on the rooftop, inside there’s a small altar, inscriptions cover inside walls and ceiling. It is because of the notoriety of the shrine the Church Of The Assumption began to be known as Assumption Grotto. 

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Heading south on Gratiot we turn into the parking lot of  the Better Made factory and outlet store, the original sign still stands since 1934. Unfortunately the public can no longer tour the factory, but, you can buy all of the delicious snack foods Better Made makes! We walk in the front door and find ourselves standing in a small customer waiting area, framed articles about the company hang on the walls, antique potato chip tins rest on shelves, memorabilia items fill a display case. You can buy T-shirts, hats, drinking glasses and key chains all with the Better Made logo. Plexiglas separates the public area from the factory, workers wait on customers one at a time placing cases of potato chips, popcorn, pretzels and other snacks in a passageway, money is slid under a bank-teller-like window. We leave with a stash of potato sticks, cheese balls and dill pickle chips.

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A little further down Gratiot is On The Rise Bakery and Cafe. Sponsored by the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. Bakers have recently been released from prison or have completed a substance abuse treatment program. After bakery trainees complete their allotted time they move on to seek employment elsewhere and a new participant assumes their position. Each purchase supports housing, training, counseling services, educational opportunities and self-help programs AND their bread and baked goods are wonderful! The counter is piled high with individually wrapped brownies, muffins, caramel pecan rolls and pineapple upside-down cake, cookies the size of frisbees fill a display case. We place our order, before we know it our lunch is brought out on a tray. Mildly spiced chili is made with ground beef and beans, we like ours with oyster crackers. Our turkey sandwich is served on multi-grain bread with lettuce tomato and Dijon mustard. Coming here always makes me feel good, I get to eat delicious food and at the same time I am contributing to a worthwhile cause.

 

 

 

3 Responses to “DETROIT: Cruisin’ Gratiot….”

  1. thesmilingpilgrim May 25, 2016 at 8:55 pm #

    Super beautiful building 🙂

  2. Linda May 26, 2016 at 9:48 am #

    I so enjoy your adventures, photos, stories & writing! Thank you:) Linda

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