Photo gallery: Suspicious blaze devours historic church near downtown Detroit

First Unitarian
All photos by Steve Neavling

Update: Fire investigators said the owner wanted to demolish the building but was denied.

A suspicious, fast-moving fire gutted the historic First Unitarian Church of Detroit on Saturday morning.
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I arrived at the blaze on Woodward near downtown shortly after the first engine made the scene at 6:20 a.m. Flames were already busting through every window.

There was nothing firefighters could do but knock down the flames from aerial ladders and call in arson investigators.

The 124-year-old Romanesque Revival building was a goner. What was left of the rock-faced exterior was demolished later in the day.

State and local arson investigators are trying to determine what ignited the blaze.

The church is a block north of the new Red Wings arena and entertainment district that is being built between Midtown and downtown.

The state-designated historic church was protected from demolition before it was gutted by the fire, not unlike what happened with the historic University Club on East Jefferson last year. The mystery of that suspicious blaze was never solved.

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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.

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