Gorgeous churches and former synagogues line Woodward Avenue near downtown Detroit.
They are architectural gems, many of them more than a century old, with fascinating histories.
Here are eight notable churches and synagogues along the southern part of Detroit’s main artery, once called Piety Hill. (All photos by Steve Neavling)
1. Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament
Architect: Henry A. Walsh
Architectural details: Gothic Revival design, built with sandstone and limestone, pointed arches, large stained glass.
Notable history: Seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit.
2. Metropolitan United Methodist Church
Architect: William E. N. Hunter
Architectural details: English Gothic style, gabled roof, built from a rare ochre granite. Enormous building housed a sanctuary, auditorium, chapel, meeting rooms, dining rooms, gymnasium and classrooms.
Notable history: Had the largest Methodist congregation in the world in the mid-1930s.
3. First Presbyterian Church
Architect: George D. Mason and Zachariah Rice
Architectural details: Richardson Romanesque style, built from red sandstone and includes Tiffany stained-glass windows. Floor plan is shaped like a Greek cross.
Notable history: The widening of Woodward Avenue in 1936 forced the church to move its exquisitely carved entrance to the side facing Edmund Place.
4. First Unitarian Church (Burned down May 10, 2014)
Architect: Donaldson and Meier
Architectural details: Romanesque Revival design, gabled facade, built of red sandstone
Notable history: After the widening of Woodward in the mid-1930s, the building was sold and had several owners before being abandoned by neglectful owners.
5. Temple Beth-El (Now Bonstelle Theatre)
Architect: Albert Kahn
Architectural details: Beaux-Arts style, with prominent dome, gabled wings
Notable history: The building was sold in the 1920s and converted into a theater by architect C. Howard Crane.
6. Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church
Architect: Sidney R. Badgley
Architectural details: Gothic Revival style, rock and limestone exterior, octagonal sanctuary
Notable history: The congregation peaked at more than 2,000 in the early 1920s, making it one of the largest Presbyterian churches in Detroit.
7. St. John’s Episcopal Church
Architect: Albert Jordan and James Anderson
Architectural details: Victorian Gothic Revival design, with a rubble limestone facade, 105-foot-high belfry
Notable history: The oldest surviving church on Woodward, spearheaded by future Gov. Henry Porter Baldwin.
8. Temple Beth-El (Now Lighthouse Cathedral)
Architect: Albert Kahn
Architectural details: Neoclassical design, built with limestone, flat-roofed, with eight ionic columns.
Notable history: Many of the services were broadcast on the radio, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited twice.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.