Looking Back: St. Mary School 1889-2017

By: | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published April 3, 2017

Father Camillus Maes, of St. Peter Church, recognized the need for a Catholic school in Mount Clemens. He sought the help of nuns belonging to the order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Monroe, Michigan. They agreed to help if the school would be named in honor of the Blessed Mother. The school was built in 1870 next to St. Peter Church. The nuns traveled up to Mount Clemens by canoe to start their mission of teaching 80 enrolled students.

This first building was a two-story, two room wooden structure that was built upon New Street. Boys and girls were separated. The need for a larger building caused the church to sell the building, which was then moved to the corner of Macomb and Pine streets. In 1889, they built a beautiful three-story brick building that had three classrooms each on the first two floors and an auditorium on the third floor. The building included wonderful features such as stamped metal ceiling tiles, keystone arches, batch-fired solid brick and hardwood plank flooring cut by the local mills. Increasing enrollment caused them to renovate the building in 1902 to double its size and enlarge the auditorium. In 1911, they erected a new high school on Market Street, which included a gymnasium and a high school wing. 

Sadly, St. Peter Church caught fire on Sept. 11, 1957, which caused the church steeple to fall upon the school. This greatly damaged the third floor of the building. This all happened during the school day, causing the students to evacuate. The students watched these buildings burn. Thankfully, with the help of Father Paul Heenan, the parish raised enough money to restore and rebuild. Sadly, the spirit to preserve and restore no longer exists. There are plans to have the school torn down soon. So, say your goodbyes to this beautiful structure that once held so much pride within our community.

— Written by Kim Parr, director of the Macomb County
Historical Society & Crocker House Museum