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The Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church- The decaying & abandoned Gothic Revival church in Detroit

Neil Patrick

Built in 1911 in the Gothic Revival style, The Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church  located at 8501 Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Michigan  was used for some time as the Abyssinia Church of God in Christ.

By 1908, the Presbyterians in Detroit recognized the need for a church to serve congregants located in what was then the “north” Woodward area. Meetings were held and the congregation was organized by the presbytery on March 17, 1908.The church had 163 members.

 

Rev. Sherman L. Divine was installed as the congregation’s first minister, and he embarked on an ambitious building project, envisioning a sanctuary that would cost about $100,000.The church enlisted new members and new funding. Tracy and Katherine McGregor donated a lot along Woodward, and the cornerstone for the church was laid on January 1, 1910.Construction began, based on a design by Sidney Rose Badgley. The church was dedicated on June 23 of the next year.

 

auxiliary seating, separated from the sanctuary by a sliding panel source

Auxiliary seating, separated from the sanctuary by a sliding panel source

 

Detail of pipe organ, a gift of Mrs. Tracy McGregor. Manufactured by the Tellers Organ Company of Erie, PA source

Detail of pipe organ, a gift of Mrs. Tracy McGregor. Manufactured by the Tellers Organ Company of Erie, PA source

 

The main sanctuary of the Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church, view from balcony. source

The main sanctuary of the Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church, view from balcony. source

Membership surpassed 2200 by 1921. However, by the 1950s, many members were leaving Detroit for the northern suburbs. Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church began to struggle, with fewer than 1000 members in 1961 and only 404 in 1971. In 1981, Woodward Avenue Presbyterian merged with Covenant Church. The combined churches still had fewer than 500 members, and by 1991 there were only 210. In 1993, the congregation split from the Presbyterian church, eventually becoming the Abyssinia Interdenominational Church. The church closed on the death of the pastor in 2005.

 

The main sanctuary of the Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church, view from east balcony, highlighting the curved pews and pipe organ. source

The main sanctuary of the Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church, view from east balcony, highlighting the curved pews and pipe organ. source

Woodward Avenue Presbyterian is an English Gothic-style church, faced with rough rock and trimmed with a contrasting limestone, and measuring 184 feet long by 104 feet wide.

The Woodward Avenue façade boasts a massive carved stone entrance with a traceried stained glass window set above; two square towers flank the center entrance. Along the side, gabled transepts contain full-height traceried windows. A two-story educational wing, built at the same time as the main church building, abuts the rear.A lantern dome, raised above the roofline, lights the auditorium.

The Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Michigan, that has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places(NRHP).source

The Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Michigan, that has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places(NRHP).source

 

Until the spring of 2010, Woodward Avenue Presbyterian was abandoned, and has fallen into disrepair. More recently the property has been purchased by a group looking to convert the building into a homeless shelter.