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Constructing the New Church – Quasquicentennial of St. Michael’s Church

I would like to thank Mark S. Auerbach, City Historian of Passaic, NJ for the time he has spent detailing stories of early Passaic and for the images which he has so kindly given me permission to include in my posts about early Passaic and St. Michael’s Church.

By 1902, the landscape of Passaic was continually changing. More factories had come to the city and Slovak immigrants continued to exit Ellis Island and head to the neighborhood where their families and friends had settled before them. Many of the original Udol inhabitants who migrated to Passaic traveled back and forth between Europe and the United States, often bringing more countrymen with them.

Even the enlarged Dundee Evangelical Mission Chapel, now St. Michael’s Church and rectory, was too small to meet the needs of its parishioners. Plans were made to build a new church.

The First Ward, which included St. Michael’s parish, was a mixture of two-family homes rented by immigrant families, ethnic shops, and mills. The ever present train tracks were nearby.

View along the train tracks, Botany Mills ahead

The Passaic Woolen Mills, in the same neighborhood:

Passaic Woolen Mills, Passaic, N. J. - 1905
Factories and train tracks

Shops of all kinds were within walking distance:

Shopping in Passaic

The neighborhood was the center of St. Michael’s life and the new church would be built on the same site as the old one. In 1902, the cornerstone was laid for the building that became St. Michael’s that we know today.

Cornerstone, Laid in 1902

By 5 May 1905, the fifteenth anniversary of the founding of the parish, the new church had been completed and parishioners looked back with pride at what had been accomplished since the first steps had been taken in 1890.

The landscape of First Street took on an entirely new look with the beautiful new building in their midst. If you have any misconceptions about the proximity of the Dundee Canal to neighborhood life, these photos will clear them up:

St. Michael’s, c1907

If you exited the church and didn’t watch where you were walking, you could end up very wet!

The railroad tracks were such a vital part of the mills’ business, too.

When a new bridge was added to cross the canal, there was a ribbon cutting ceremony. The towers of St. Michael’s can be seen in the distance.

St. Michael’s, Down First Street

Now that you have a good idea of how the neighborhood looked, take a look at the beautiful inside of the brand new church:

Interior of St. Michael’s Church

By the time the church was finished, this new parish had had three pastors – Fr. Chanath, Rev. Szatala and Rev. Molscanyi. In early 1906, the sixth pastor came to the church – Fr. Janitzky.

It took fifteen years for immigrants to plan, purchase a building and found the parish of St. Michael’s and construct a new church to meet its growing needs. Next, Rev. Janitzky began the first of many projects that expanded and enhanced the religious life of his flock.

Tomorrow – As in the old country, the new church sits at the center of the lives of its members.