When going through newspapers for the daily “Looking Back” column published in the Manistee News Advocate, I often come across things that while I knew of them happening, I had never really been sure of the exact their dates. Needless to say, there’s a lot of, “Oh…that’s when that happened!” going through my mind as I flip through the minutia of Manistee life from 20, 40, 60 and 80 years ago.
One of the things that stood out for me in recent weeks was reading about the demolition of the former rectory of St. Joseph Catholic Church. The rectory, located next to the church on Sixth Street, was constructed in 1886 and torn down in May 1981. Even though I have attended St. Joseph Church (today’s Divine Mercy Parish) all my life, I had seen only a few photos of the old rectory and heard stories about it from my dad as when it was torn down, I wasn’t even a year old.
So, coming across the descriptions and photos sof the old building and its demolition was quite interesting to me. As such, I am republishing an article written by the late Dorothy Laskey Rose for the Manistee News Advocate that describes the scene of the demolition. The article, titled “The past gives way to the present” was published in the News Advocate on May 21, 1981:
“Only a sandy indentation in the earth, and a lone pipe mark the site of the old St. Joseph Parish rectory razed last week to make way for a proposed parish center.
“A parade of vehicles slowly passed along Sixth Street on May 13 as the 95-year-old structure was brought down. Persons in cars and on-lookers standing by the church watched, apparently to etch the past deeper in memory and to become a part of the future as the parish continues to change to meet contemporary needs.
“After the structure, the old revered ‘plebanli’, toppled, many persons carried away bricks and mementoes. Among the first persons at the site was the Rev. Father Clarence Smolinski, pastor of St. Joseph’s. Father Smolinkski took the copper-encased cross that had been attached to the domed roof.
“'This is the heritage of the past that is to stay with the church,’ he remarked yesterday as he explained that the cross, currently stored in the basement of the present rectory, will be repaired (it was damaged when the building toppled) and incorporated into the exterior of the rectory and administration building.
“Father Smolinkski said other pieces of the parish’s past are also being preserved and incorporated into contemporary buildings. He said the chandelier that was in the old church and then in the old rectory is now in the chapel of the new rectory.
“The old rectory was razed last week Wednesday to make way for a bi-level parish center to be located on the site of the old school, convent and rectory. The old rectory was brought down in about four hours. The work was done by William Seng.
“Work on the proposed center is to begin as soon as possible. Architects are VanderMeiden, Koteles and Associates, Inc. of Grand Haven.”
So what are we left with after all the dust settles, the clean-up is done and a new building is built...really not much besides a few old photos and a brief article or two. Yet while just knowing that something unique used to be located on a particular piece of land is great, it always pales in comparison to what used to physically be there.
You can check out the daily Looking Back column in the print edition of the Manistee News Advocate or online at: https://www.manisteenews.com/local-history/