One of my favourite forms of books is the coffee table book. These are designed to capture a moment in time and are more often than not, targeted to a very specific audience. The latest tome from Sharon Hanna and Daniel Wells, 250 Years of Assumption Parish spans the history of one of Windsor’s oldest and most iconic buildings, Our Lady of Assumption Church on Huron Church Road.
The 176-page epic walks readers through the deep history of the oldest continuously operating Catholic parish in Ontario with more than three quarters of the book dedicated to photos dating as far back as mid-18th Century. Such as novelties like a record of births in 1761-62 grace the pages of this essential record.
Even though the church building was established in 1767, the parish’s root can actually be traced back to 1728 to the days when no physical building existed and the records of a Jesuit missionary travelled the banks of the Detroit River.
Our Lady of Assumption dates back to the Huron Mission of 1728, led by Father Armand de la Richardie. In 1765, a church was built to accommodate the Hurons and the first French farmers of the area. It’s one of the first buildings you see when you cross the border from Detroit and it represents Windsor’s history in a way no other structure can – without Assumption, there would be no Windsor.
The book is a treasure trove of early Canadian Catholic Church history and gives an insight into the early years of Windsor in a unique way, with documents and photos leading the story. With many of the photos or early paintings, bookworms can get a glimpse into what places like Sandwich looked like as a giant field and have a rare glance behind the scenes. History lovers will appreciate the attention to detail and the inclusion of maps dating back to as early as 1708. One of the earliest maps of the Detroit region is included and shows the settlement in the Sandwich area. This French map clearly shows early US and Canadian settlements being established.
The softcover book presents itself well, but a hardcover edition would have given it a bit more charm and then it would have felt more like a valued keepsake – but it’s still a striking work nonetheless.
A book like 250 Years of Assumption Parish takes a lot of coordination and effort to put together, so even though Hanna and Wells mention in closing that the book came together quickly, it still had to require a ton of effort. The end result is a book for the Windsor Catholic community to cherish and a coffee table piece for Windsor history buffs to flip through.