State Bureau of History Inventory Form
Creator: Little Rock/State Bureau of History
Subjects: Historic Designation
Description: Inventory form from the application for Little Rock to become a designated Historic Site. This is the transcription from the assessment done during the State Bureau of History meeting.
Date: April 22, 1993
Original Format: Other
Rights Management: Little Rock Baptist Church
State Bureau of History
Contributing Institution: Array
Contributor: Brett Boor
Transcript: Bureau of History
Michigan Department of State
Michigan Historical Commission Meeting
April 22, 1993
Site (Historic Name): Central Woodward Christian Church
(Other Names); Little Rock Baptist Church
Address/Location: 9000 Woodward Avenue
Municipal Unit: City of Detroit
Owner: The Reverend James Holley, Ph.D
and the Deacon Board
Mailing Address: Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church
9000 Woodward Avenue
Post Office, Zip Code:Detroit, MI 48202
Original use: Church
Present use: Church
Central Woodward Christian Church (Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church) is located on the southeast corner of Woodward Avenue and Josephine Street in Detroit. The church, measuring 145 feet in length and 110 feet in width, is an L-shaped, Neo-Gothic building of smooth grey Indiana limestone with a slate roof. Leaded windows, both clear and stained, fill the openings, and copper trim is used. The alley wall is brick.
The corner site of the church had as its southern boundary the Jewish Community Center property, now Considine Recreation Center. The designers of the church placed the nave wall well over to the south on the lot, abutting the next property at the rear, so as to maintain maximum light and air for the low elements which flank the church on its north and the church house to the north and east. A tower marks the intersection of the main sanctuary and the church house.
The facade of the nave is simple in arrangement; two massive buttress forms flank the single arch of the entry and the single large window above. The buttressed corners step back and near the top contain niches on the front; figures of the four evangelists mask the transitional corners where the buttress forms change to an octagonal plan; and the tops have Gothic openwork parapets.
Between the buttresses, the main entry consists of two deeply recessed doors divided by a trumeau and surmounted by a divided tympanum with blind tracery. The rounded arch of the entrance opening has ribs which disappear into the splayed side walls of the recess. Above, a pierced stone rail fronts the base of the large window, divided by a sort of trumeau which is surmounted by a fully developed rose window set into the tracery of the center two lancets. Again, the ribbing of the arch blends into the splayed sides of the window opening. The hipped roof is screened by a parapet of Gothic arches with a centered niche.
Flanking the nave along the north side are the chapel, a low structure which opens into the nave through the arches of the nave arcade, and the Gray Room, adjacent to the narthex and the rear of the chapel; this contains an older window of "Suffer the Little Children". To the rear of the nave on its north and east sides are office and church house structures containing extensive dining and recreational facilities. The tower which stands at the intersection of the nave and church is typical in its solid planar walls broken only by one large pointed opening in each face.
The nave has four windows towards the rear of either side in the nave elevation; the two bays closest to the chancel are open to galleries within a sort of pseudo-transept. On the north, this gallery contains two older stained glass windows, showing Washington and Lincoln. On the south, the window openings are blank, as the church abuts the adjoining property at this point. On the south side of the nave, the low side aisle is narrow and serves only as access to the pews in the nave; on the north, the aisle serves as a dividing element between nave and chapel.
The eight nave windows and the large west window have recently been filled in with an extensive program of new stained glass by Anchor Glass Company of Detroit, devoted to the Stations of the Cross. The chapel windows are likewise new, and contain symbols of the apostles. Forward of the south side gallery is a new window of the "African-American Pulpit" showing Black pastors ranging in date from Richard Allen to a "pastor of the future"; in the rear of the south gallery is another new window, devoted to symbols of the ministries of the church. This program of new stained glass has added considerable color to a sanctuary previously served almost exclusively with colorless glass; even the older Washington and Lincoln windows are recessed at the rear of a gallery and so added little to the view from the west entrance.
Entry from the Woodward doors leads into the narthex, panelled and with a decorative plasterwork ceiling; the west gallery is above. The main and side aisles are entered through three sets of double doors. The main nave is characterized by the low rounded arches of the arcade, the tall windows above, and the arched timber ceiling, decorated in polychrome. The raised choir platform has some modern furnishings required to replace originals removed by the former owners. The east end of the church is dominated by the large organ case in dark wood and zinc pipes. A window high in the east wall remains filled with colorless glass. Below, the Baptistery is at the rear of the choir platform, the arch opening into it derived from some tomb or chantry chapel in an English church.
Themes: P5, AC
Construction Dates: 1927-1928
Architect/Builder: George D. Mason
This Neo-Gothic church was the fourth home of the Disciples of Christ, first organized in 1846 by the Reverend William K. Nay. The first regular services took place in a schoolroom at the corner of Congress and Randolph streets. In 1863 several members purchased the Congregational Church located at JEfferson and Beaubien. In 1871 the congregation merged with a group worshipping at Saint Andrew's Hall. The membership purchased a building on Washington Boulevard owned by the Scotch Presbyterian Society and worshipped there for twenty years. By 1890 the Central Christian congregation occupied a handsome stone Romanesque church in the then-fashionable Cass Park neighborhood. Following the migration of other Protestant groups to the North Woodward area in the 1920's, Central Christian decided to build a new church building on the corner of Woodward and Josephine. Designed by George C. Mason and Company at a cost of five hundred thousand dollars, Central Woodward Christian Church was dedicated on October 14, 1928. George D. Mason (1856-1948) was the dean of Detroit architects at the time of his death. His architectural career spanned fifty years. Among other noteworthy buildings credited to Mason are the Grand Hotel (1887-88) (national register-listed), the First Presbyterian Church of Detroit (1889, 1935) (national register listed), Detroit's Masonic Temple (1922-26) (national register-listed), and the First Methodist Church of Highland Park (1916-17) (national register-listed).
The Great Depression began in the process of neighborhood change in the north Woodward area. Housing shortages and the influx of workers during World War II contributed to it. By the 1950's the original congregations located along the North Woodward corridor were beginning to sell their church buildings to black congregations and move to the suburbs. Central Woodward Christian Church was among the last to leave the area, moving to Troy in 1978 after selling its building to Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church.
Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church was established in April 1936 by the Reverend Robert E. Tate with a congregation of six. Its early meetings were held at 1314 East Willis, the home of Ozzie Hooks, one of the congregation's founding members. Over the years the congregation relocated to three other church buildings, each time moving to a larger capacity facility. In June 1972 the Reverend James Holly was called to be pastor of Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church. Within seven years the congregation again faced growing pains. In August 1979 Little Rock Baptist Church moved into the former Central Christian Church, and within ten years the mortgage was paid off. Little Rock completed a major renovation in 1990. These changes included a number of new stained glass windows, and the renovation of the pastor's office study, the choir loft, the pulpit area, the lower auditorium, the kitchen and the lavatories.
Central Woodward Christian Church (Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church) has architectural significance as a fine example of Neo-Gothic church architecture designed by noted Detroit architect George D. Mason. The church has historical significance as the home of two historic and diverse congregations.
Central Woodward Christian Church (Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church) meets the requirements for listing in the State Register of Historic Sites under criteria III. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on August 3, 1982 as a contributing structure in the thematic group nomination of the Religious Structures of Woodward Avenue in Detroit and Highland Park.
State Register Designation
(L/S and number ): L1891
Form Prepared by: Charles Cotman