National Register of Historic Places Inventory - St. John's Episcopal Church
Creator: United States Department of the Interior Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service
Subjects: Historic Designation, Corporate Records
Description: Description of St. John's Episcopal Church religious structures inside and outside of the church. Located on Woodward at East Fisher Freeway in Detroit, Michigan.
Original Format: Other
Rights Management: St. John's Episcopal Church
Contributor: Carlton Rolle
Transcript: The structure is located on the southeast corner of Woodward Avenue at the East Fisher Freeway. The church and chapel measure 170 feet long and 80 feet wide, while a 1971 rear addition measures 70 feet long and 40 feet wide. Saint John's Episcopal Church is a light gray limestone, rockfaced, coursed-ashlar Gothic Revival church with dark stone trim built in 1860-61. It is an end-gable-roofed structure with a square, buttressed corner tower capped with a tall, louvered belfry with octagonal pinnacles. Pierced stone cresting spans the parapet between the tall pinnacles of the flat roofed tower. Balancing the tower on the entrance facade is a tall, slender, octagonal pinnacle capped with an elaborate molded stone finial. Sandwiched between the corner tower and the pinnacle is the elaborately carved, stone, gabled, entrance vestibule with its large, traceried transom. An equally ornate Gothic-arched entrance with carved stone surround is located next to the main entrance in the base of the corner tower. Over the entrance vestibule is an over¬sized, Gothic-arched, traceried window flanked by carved stone niches. A final ornamental touch is provided by the stone cross located at the peak of the front gable. The north elevation is composed of regularly-spaced, Gothic-arched windows separated by stone buttresses. A gabled stone transept terminates the nave.
The English Gothic style interior reflects alterations made in 1936 when the facade and tower were moved back sixty feet during the widening of Woodward Avenue. The high vaulted nave is flanked by side aisles and balconies supported on massive steel piers covered in molded plaster to resemble limestone. The wood - paneled balcony surrounding the auditorium is an original feature although it was originally supported on cast iron columns. The original wooden, hammerbeam roof trusses were replaced with plaster vaulting in 1936 further disguising the structure's Victorian Gothic origins. The vaulted sanctuary niche is framed in a Gothic arch. Elaborate brass and metal railings define the perimeter of the raised sanctuary which contains a monumental wood and marble Gothic style reredos. The many fine stained glass windows, the elaborate sanctuary furnishings, and the original wooden pews complete the interior.
The present Gothic Revival building is the seventh structure occupied by this congregation. Central Methodist is the oldest continuing Methodist church in Michigan. Organized as the First Methodist Episcopal Society on April 12, 1821, the society merged with the Congress Street Methodist Church when fire destroyed the latter's church in 1863. First Methodist sold its commercially valuable property at Woodward and State and purchased lots at Woodward and Adams where a frame chapel was erected parish house, constructed east of the church in 1914-16, was designed by the Detroit architectural firm of Smith, Hinchman and Grylls. Considered to be the finest Methodist church in Michigan at the time of its construction, Central Methodist is highly significant as an example of a High Victorian, Gothic, auditorium church and as a major work of the prominent, nineteenth-century, Michigan church architect, Gordon W. Lloyd.