National Register of Historic Places Inventory – First Unitarian Church of Detroit
Creator: United States Department of the Interior Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service
Subjects: Historic Designation, Corporate Records
Description: Commonly known as Church of Christ Detroit. Located on Woodward Avenue and Edmund Place. Description of the First Unitarian Church of Detroit's religious structures inside and outside.
Original Format: Other
Rights Management: First Unitarian Church of Detroit
Contributor: Carlton Rolle
Transcript: The structure is located on the southeast corner of Woodward Avenue and Edmund Place. As a result of the widening of Woodward Avenue for vehicular traffic in 1934-36, the structure now measures 85 feet in length and 94 feet in width. First Unitarian Church, built in 1839-90, is a massive, rock-faced, red-sandstone, Romanesque Revival-style church with a gabled facade facing Woodward Avenue. The Church was somewhat remodeled in 1936 when Woodward Avenue was widened, but the basic original design elements were retained. The severe gabled facade with its great expanse of masonry is relieved only by a tripartite arched window. A simple, shed-roofed, four-bay porch with stone Romanesque columns spans the first floor of the facade and abuts a severely plain, two-story, hip-roofed projection at the south corner. A simple side porch with stone piers adjacent to this wing shelters a secondary en¬trance. The long front porch was enclosed and glazed in 1936, although it was originally open and sheltered the main entrance. The Edmund Place elevation is now the entrance front. A gabled transept projects slightly from the mass of the building, balancing the soaring square tower at the rear corner. The severely plain tower with its few tiny windows and hip roof originally had an open, arcaded belfry, but this was enclosed with masonry in 1936. At the base of the tower is an arched portal (now enclosed with temporary wooden storm doors) that shelters the church en¬trance. A round bulge in the lower portion of the tower defines the circular tower staircase. There are few stained-glass windows since leaded diamond quarreled and rectangular lights were used for glazing. The original round-butt slate roof remains intact.
This Romanesque Revival structure was the second home of the First Congregational Unitarian Society, incorporated on October 6, 1850. The Unitarians dedicated this church, their second, in November, 1890. While, in 1934, Woodward Avenue was being widened and the church being remodeled, the congregation worshiped with the Universalist Church of Our Father. This worship arrangement proved so mutually harmonious that the two liberal congregations subsequently merged and the Edmund Place property was sold to the Church of Christ denomination, which has occupied the building since 1937. The church is notable in a statewide context as a fine Richardsonian Romanesque church and in at least a local context as an important work of the prominent Detroit architectural firm of Donaldson & Meier.