St. Bonaventure Monastery

St. Bonaventure Monastery

1740 Mt. Eliot

You may not associate the mendicant orders with Detroit. Nevertheless, the Fransiscan friars have served the needy for well over a century from this huge religious complex on Mt. Eliott.. The monastery was established in 1883 to serve Detroit's Catholic Community. It includes the monastery itself that was built between 1883 and 1913, a Soup Kitchen erected in 1913, and a Hall for Third Order Franciscans built in 1939.

The monastery is best known in Detroit today for its Soup Kitchen serving the poor. The Franciscans have a long tradition of providing such aid, and were a major source of support for east side workers who suffered unemployment during the Depression—an era when there was no unemployment compensation and few governmental programs to support the poor.

The impressive buildings were all constructed in red brick with extensive limestone trim. That stone is from Trenton, Michigan. The major architect was Peter Dederichs, a Detroit-born, but German trained, designer whose major work was, arguable, the flamboyant
St. Mary's Church that still serves its parishioners in Greektown.

Father Solanus Casey served as porter here from 1924 through 1946. He became very well known for greeting people in need and then providing succorance. This was an especially important endeavor when Detroit suffered in the 1930s. In 1977, his supporters initiated the process of asking the Vatican to canonize him. He may become the first Detroiter to become a saint in the Catholic Church, although in truth, he was born in Milwaukee.

Date of Construction of the Monastery: 1883 to 1913
Architect of the Monastery: Peter Dederichs
Architectural Style: Late Victorian Gothic achieved with bricks of a warm red
Use in 2003: Monastery and religious and social center
Website for Father Solanus Casey:
State Registry of Historic Sites: P 25223
National Registry of Historic Sites: Listed December 2, 1982
Photo: Ren Farley. February, 2003

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