8 elegant churches, synagogues on Woodward in Detroit

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

Woodward Church

9844 Woodward
Opened: 1915
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.
Status: Occupied

2. Metropolitan United Methodist Church

Woodward Church

8000 Woodward
Opened: 1926
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.
Status: Occupied

3. First Presbyterian Church

woodward First Presbyterian Church
2930 Woodward
Opened: 1889
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.

Status: Occupied

4. First Unitarian Church (Burned down May 10, 2014)

First Unitararian Church Woodward_1951

2870 Woodward
Opened: 1890
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.
Status: Abandoned

5. Temple Beth-El (Now Bonstelle Theatre)

Woodward Bonstelle

3424 Woodward
Opened: 1902
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.
Status: Occupied

6. Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church

Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church1

8501 Woodward
Opened: 1911
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.
Status: Abandoned

7. St. John’s Episcopal Church

St. John's Episcopal Church_2139

2326 Woodward
Opened: 1859
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.
Status: Occupied

8. Temple Beth-El (Now Lighthouse Cathedral)

Temple Beth El

8801 Woodward
Opened: 1921
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.
Status: Occupied

Steve Neavling

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.

  • Gregory Watson

    Great article, Steve.

  • fallopia

    A note about their current use / abandonment status would’ve been edifying.

    • muckraker_steve

      Good point. Thank you.

  • josephtremblay

    The photo associated with Cathedral Church of St. Paul in this post is, in fact, the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament (9844 Woodward, just south of Trowbridge).

    • muckraker_steve

      Thank you!

  • Billy Blake

    They truly are some beautiful buildings. It’s sad about what happen to the First Unitarian Church. Hope they find who is responsible for burning it down. Its also nice not to see these churches without a bunch of graffiti sprayed all over them .