Detroit’s Historic Places of Worship
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: Wayne State University Press
Series: Painted Turtle
Whenever I drive up Woodward Avenue, past the fast-food drive-ins and the parking lots and the gaudy newer buildings, I take solace in the noble churches that still grace Detroit. Grace is the correct word here: Through a blend of spiritual inspiration and architectural craftsmanship, Detroiters built...
In Detroit’s more than four-hundred-year history, it has spawned hundreds of churches. As Detroit grew from a remote fort to a village to a town, its church structures became increasingly sophisticated and diverse, reflecting the makeup of the changing population. The original French settlers were followed by the British, and events in Europe during...
PART I. 1848-1860
1. Saints Peter and Paul Church, Roman Catholic
Detroit’s oldest existing church building, Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church, was built to be the cathedral of the Catholic Diocese of Detroit, a role it served for twenty-nine years. For his cathedral, in 1843, Bishop Peter Paul Lefevere...
2. Mariners’ Church
Located in the heart of downtown, Mariners’ Church is an anomaly as far as Detroit churches go. Formed from the wishes of a will, it is the oldest stone church in the city and for quite a while shared its building with commercial enterprises...
3. Second Baptist Church
Second Baptist Church is located in an area known as Greektown, adjacent to downtown Detroit. Until the 1900s, Greektown was the center of Detroit’s German community. Today the site is intermingled with ethnic food and specialty shops, parking...
4. Fort Street Presbyterian Church
After the 1854 fire, the downtown area west of Woodward Avenue had a growing residential area but no Presbyterian church. Land was purchased at Fort and Third streets, spearheaded by Detroit families such as the Algers, Buhls, Chandlers, Heckers, Joys, and...
5. Most Holy Trinity Church, Roman Catholic
Most Holy Trinity holds the distinction of being the second Roman Catholic parish founded in Detroit and the first to serve the city’s English-speaking population, which was predominantly of Irish descent in the mid-nineteenth century. In...
PART II. 1860-1890
6. Saint John’s Episcopal Church
When Saint John’s Episcopal Church was built, it was just beyond the city limits, which were surrounded by orchards, farms, and a few homes. Soon, as the city spread beyond the immediate riverfront, this area became known as the first of two Piety...
7. Christ Church, Episcopal
Christ Church was founded in 1845 as an offshoot of Saint Paul’s Church, now the Cathedral Church of Saint Paul. The growth of Detroit in an easterly direction necessitated another Episcopal parish to accommodate the increase in churchgoers. Christ...
8. Central United Methodist Church
Central United Methodist Church organized in 1810 and is considered the birthplace of Protestantism in Michigan. After being located at several small sites closer to the river, this church strategically decided to move to the northeastern rim of Grand Circus Park...
9. Saint Joseph’s, Roman Catholic
Appearing to have been picked up and moved from Germany, this parish served the immigrant German population just east of downtown Detroit. An offshoot of “Old” Saint Mary’s and like so many of Detroit’s churches, Saint Joseph’s was a connection...
10. Saint Albertus, Roman Catholic
Saint Albertus is Detroit’s oldest Polish Roman Catholic parish. By 1870 the number of Polish immigrants in Detroit was large enough for them to consider forming their own parish and building their own church. There are three versions of the founding. An early...
11. Saint Mary’s, Roman Catholic
Old” Saint Mary’s Church has a major presence in the bustling business district known as Greektown (originally Germantown), along with Second Baptist Church, a casino, office buildings, parking structures, Detroit police headquarters, and a nearby freeway...
12. Sainte Anne, Roman Catholic
"No discussion of churches would be complete without the mention of Sainte Anne, Detroit’s first church, which has often been called the “Mother Church of Detroit.” Named to honor the patron saint of New France, Sainte Anne Church has endured as...
13. Trumbull Avenue Presbyterian Church
Trumbull Avenue Presbyterian Church is Detroit’s last major example of Venetian Gothic, an architectural style popularized in the second half of the nineteenth century by the English writer John Ruskin. The aesthetic movement inspired an extraordinary original...
PART III. 1890-1920
14. First Presbyterian Church
Until the summer of 1816 the only religious services in Detroit were, for the most part, provided by a Catholic priest, Father Gabriel Richard of Sainte Anne Catholic Church. A group of Protestants led by Governor Lewis Cass sent a request to Princeton...
15. First Congregational Church
Congregationalism was brought to America by the Pilgrims in 1620 and gradually became a major church group in New England. This religious culture moved westward with the country’s expansion, arriving in Michigan’s northeastern Oakland County by...
16. Cass Avenue United Methodist Church
When the Cass Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church was first formed in 1880–81, it was as a mission from Central Methodist Episcopal Church on Woodward Avenue at Grand Circus Park. The land purchased for the new mission church was part...
17. Trinity Episcopal Church
In 1880 the congregation of what was then known as Epiphany Reformed Episcopal Church purchased a lot just south of the intersection of Grand River and Trumbull avenues and built a small frame church. The church was down the street from the home of James...
18. Sweetest Heart of Mary, Roman Catholic
At one time able to seat 2,400 people, Sweetest Heart of Mary is considered one of the largest Catholic churches in metropolitan Detroit. The history of the church is rooted in the mid-nineteenth- century immigration of Poles who came to the Detroit area...
19. Our Lady of the Rosary, Roman Catholic
In 1883 Mrs. Lucetta Medbury provided funds for what was then Saint Joseph Episcopal Memorial Chapel, on land owned by her husband, to be built in honor of her parents. Ten years later the congregation had grown, and again Mrs. Medbury offered land and the...
20. Saint Josaphat, Roman Catholic
Steeped in Polish patriotism, Saint Josaphat, with its distinctive three spires, exists today as evidence of the former lively Polish quarter of Detroit. Immigrants from Prussian-occupied regions of Poland began to arrive in Detroit in the 1850s. The...
21. Temple Beth El
What began as a small gathering of worshippers in a Detroit home organized to become Michigan’s first Jewish congregation. From these modest beginnings, the congregation flourished and endured, leaving a significant architectural legacy...
22. People’s Community Church
For over fifty years People’s Community Church has occupied the building that was originally North Baptist Church. That congregation merged with their mother church and took their name, becoming First Baptist Church in 1912, a little over two...
23. Holy Family, Roman Catholic
An influx of immigrants from southern Italy and Sicily who settled on Detroit’s near east side in the early 1900s wanted a Catholic church of their own. Under the leadership of Father Giovanni Boschi, this congregation was organized in 1908. The chapel...
24. Cathedral Church of Saint Paul, Episcopal
The bright red outer doors of the Cathedral Church of Saint Paul are an indication of the treasures to delight the eye found within the massive walls. Located in the heart of the Cultural Center, Saint Paul’s is on the cusp of downtown revitalization and invites...
25. Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church
The former Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church’s innovative design and thoughtful use of materials make it a unique feature on the Detroit landscape. Located at the corner of Woodward Avenue and West Philadelphia, part of the upper Piety Hill area, this...
26. The Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Roman Catholic
Inspired by traditional Norman Gothic architecture, the vast Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament was originally a parish church serving the newly developed Woodward Avenue–Boston Boulevard residential areas. The first mass...
27. Saint Charles Borromeo, Roman Catholic
Peter Dederichs designed this building, the last of his career, for Detroit’s east-side Flemish Catholic population. Originally an offshoot of the Belgian church Our Lady of Sorrows, Saint Charles Borromeo parish was founded in 1886. The parish had worshipped...
PART IV. 1920-1950
28. Most Holy Redeemer, Roman Catholic
The Redemptorist Order, under the leadership of Father Aegidius Smulders, founded Most Holy Redeemer Church and Parish in 1880. The parish was under their care for almost 120 years until 1999, when they ceded stewardship to the Archdiocese of...
29. Holy Cross Hungarian Church, Roman Catholic
In 1902 a young priest of Hungarian descent, Father Hubert Klenner, was assigned to Saint Elizabeth Church on the east side of Detroit. From that distance he tended to the spiritual needs of the 150 Hungarian Catholic families living in the Delray area of southwest...
30. Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church
Organized in 1854, Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church was originally located at the corner of East Jefferson and Rivard Street, serving the Presbyterian population of the east side of Detroit. This was a year of incredible prosperity for the Presbyterian Church...
31. Saint Matthew and Saint Joseph Protestant Episcopal Church
This congregation is the result of a 1971 merger between Saint Matthew Episcopal Church, previously located at Saint Antoine and Elizabeth in the downtown Detroit area, and Saint Joseph Episcopal Church at the Woodward and Holbrook site...
32. Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church
This building on Woodward Avenue at Josephine Street has served two congregations. It was constructed as the fourth home of Central Church of Christ, which had become Central Woodward Christian Church by the time the church was constructed...
33. Saint Florian, Roman Catholic
As more and more Polish Catholics immigrated to the Detroit area in search of economic security at the new Dodge, Ford, and Packard auto plants, there was a growing need for a Catholic church in Hamtramck. It was a major inconvenience and a hazard...
34. Nativity of Our Lord, Roman Catholic
Worship services for what would become Nativity of Our Lord were originally held in an abandoned school building in Leesville, a village now completely absorbed by the City of Detroit. Founded in 1911, the church was to serve the once...
35. Saint Aloysius Church, Roman Catholic
Caspar H. Borgess, Detroit’s second bishop, purchased the former Westminster Presbyterian Church on Washington Boulevard in 1873 and dedicated the building to be a new Catholic church, Saint Aloysius. This new church would serve an important...
36. Historic Trinity Lutheran Church
Trinity Lutheran’s congregation was formed in 1850 and consisted of people of German ancestry, with services held in German. Trinity became the “mother church” for all Missouri Synod Lutheran churches in the Detroit area. In November...
37. Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church
Ukrainians first immigrated to the United States in the 1870s, arriving in Detroit at the turn of the nineteenth century. From the beginning they were eager to preserve their language, customs, and faith. In 1911 they established their first parish, Saint John the...
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