National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Woodward Avenue Baptist Church
Creator: United States Department of the Interior Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service
Subjects: Historic Designation, Corporate Records
Description: Description of religious structures of Woodward Avenue Baptist Church's interior and exterior. Located at 2464 Woodward Avenue (at Winder Street)in Detroit, Michigan. Church's commonly known as The United House of Jeremiah.
Original Format: Other
Rights Management: Woodward Avenue Baptist Church
Contributor: Carlton Rolle
Transcript: The structure is located on the southeast corner of Winder Street and Woodward Avenue. Following 1936 alterations which resulted when Woodward Avenue was widened, the structure now measures 120 feet in length and 90 feet in width. The rear, two story, English Gothic addition measures 165 feet long by 95 feet wide. Woodward Avenue Baptist Church is a gray limestone, rockfaced ashlar, Late Victorian Gothic church built in 1886-87. Its present appearance is the product of a drastic remodeling necessitated by the widening of Woodward Avenue in 1935. Originally it was of the same general type as Central Methodist and St. John's Episcopal in that it had a gabled facade with a tall corner tower to the side of the central entrance vestibule balanced by a spiky little turret on the other side. All of this was swept away in 1935 when 46 feet were cut off the front of the church and a new facade installed. The present Woodward Avenue elevation is a rather plain composition of two simple Gothic arched doors inset within compound moulded enframements flanking a slightly projecting buttressed, gabled pavilion ornamented only by an attenuated, tripartite, Gothic window and massive pinnacles at the roof line. The only other architecturally treated elevation, the Winder Street side, is a multi-gabled composition with large traceried windows.
The interior of the church is interesting structurally. The Greek cross-shaped auditorium has galleries on three sides supported by slender iron columns with Romanesque-style capitals. More iron columns support the fancy Victorian Gothic trusswork at the ceiling. There are fine stained glass windows, handsome old wood pews, and a Gothic-style altar. Adjoining the rear of the church is a very large, three-story, brick, Tudor Gothic addition constructed in the early 1900s. This contains a large gymnasium style auditorium with balconies, several large multi-purpose rooms, and suites of ad¬joining class rooms separated by sliding partitions.
Originally organized as Lafayette Street Baptist Church on June 3, 1860, the congregation changed its name to the Woodward Avenue Baptist Church when lots were purchased at the present site in 1886. The congregation was the largest in Detroit when the present church was dedicated on January 19, 1887. Its architect, Mortimer Smith, had utilized iron in some of his earlier designs, but never to such great advantage as in this church's nearly square, galleried interior, where he used slender, iron columns to support the galleries and roof trusses. In 1934 the original 208 foot stone tower was demolished and the entire western end of the structure on the Woodward side was removed. In February 1980, the original congregation, whose membership had dwindled to a handful, sold the building to an east-side congregation, the United House of Jeremiah, which now occupies the building. Despite the shortening the building has undergone, it remains a very notable example of a Late Victorian, auditorium church, with its sanctuary intact.