Bishop's Residence

1880 Wellesley Drive in the Palmer Woods Historic District in northwest Detroit

The seven Fisher Brothers became extraordinarily prosperous in the first three decades of Detroit's automobile era building bodies for GM vehicles. They were one of the few Catholic families to derive great wealth from the auto industry. They also appreciated marvelous architecture as illustrated by the Fisher Tower they built for their offices. The Fisher Brothers gave generously to the Catholic Church in Detroit and built Catholic institutions, including the Burtha Fisher Home for the Aged in Southfield.

In the 1920s, Detroit was home to the nation's most rapidly growing Catholic diocese. The Fisher Brothers constructed this massive Tudor Revival home for Bishop Gallagher who headed the diocese. It was to serve as his residence, but also as a place for religious meetings. It was and remains the largest residence in the city of Detroit. It is a two-story brick structure with large diagonal wings flanking the great central structure. Note the many exterior bays, each topped with a parapet capped with masonry and a finial. Religious themes are apparent both on the exterior and the interior. The outside includes medallions, shields and crests as well as a copper statue of the archangel St. Michael fighting Satan. The interior was finished elegantly in oak, stone and masonry with, at one time, the largest collection of Pewabic tile in Michigan. Many religious artifacts and relics were brought by the diocese to augment the interior of this great structure. The architects were from a Boston firm that specialized in ecclesial structures. Bishop Gallagher, a man who greatly expanded the Catholic presence in Detroit in the 1920s, but then had to face the financial constraints of the 1930s, lived here until his death in 1937. For the next 19 years, Cardinal Mooney lived here and presided over Detroit's Catholics. Then Cardinal Deardon lived in this house. He retired from his religious duties in 1980, but remained in the house for eight more years.

In 1989, the Catholic diocese removed religious objects from the home, revealing one aspect of racial change in Detroit. Bishop Gallagher encouraged Norman Duckett to complete training to become a priest in the 1920s but after he ordained him, Gallagher realized that he could not assign an African-American to care for the spiritual needs of Detroit's overwhelming white Catholic population. So Bishop Gallagher created a Jim Crow parish for black Catholics, St. Benedict the Moor. Note the choice of the name. When the Catholic diocese placed this marvelous home on the market in 1989, they sold it to a salaried African-American who could afford the largest and most magnificent home in the city—John Salley of the Detroit Pistons.

Style: Tudor Revival
Architects: McGinnis and Walsh
Date of Completion: 1925
Use in 2002
Michigan Historical Register: P451, Listed August 11, 1983
Michigan Historical Marker: Erected March 15, 1990. This is strategically placed on the magnificent lawn that graces this mansion so that you can clearly see and read it without damaging the grass.

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