National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Metropolitan United Methodist Church

Creator: United States Department of the Interior National Park Service
Subjects: Historic Designation, Corporate Records
Description: Description of the religious interior and exterior structures inside of the Metropolitan United Methodist Church. Located at 8000 Woodward at Chandler in Detroit, Michigan.
Format: Text/jpg
Original Format: Other
Language: English
Rights Management: Metropolitan United Methodist Church
Contributing Institution:
Contributor: Carlton Rolle
National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Metropolitan United Methodist ChurchNational Register of Historic Places Inventory - Metropolitan United Methodist ChurchNational Register of Historic Places Inventory - Metropolitan United Methodist Church
Transcript: The structure is located at the northeast corner of Woodward Avenue and Chandler Street in Detroit. The property is bounded on the north by Marston Street, on the south by Chandler Street, on the east by John R. Street, and on the west by Wood¬ward Avenue and measures about 275 feet in length by 210 feet in width. Metropolitan United Methodist Church is a vast, Collegiate Gothic-style, ochre-colored, Massachusetts granite and gray-sandstone-trimmed structure built in 1922-26. The enormous, rambling complex covers an entire city block. It is composed of a cruciform, buttressed, cross-gable-roofed church with low side wings filling the space between the arms of the cross. A single, huge Gothic traceried window fills the gabled elevations at the ends of the arms. The church is connected to a large parish house and auditorium by a square, flat-roofed, entrance tower with a louvered belfry facing Chandler Street. Extending the width of the block from Chandler Street to Marston Street along the rear of the lot is the multigabled, 3 1/2-story parish house. The asymmetrical elevations are pierced by numerous banks of leaded casement windows arranged between turrets and buttresses.

The interior is divided into numerous architecturally designed spaces decorated in the Tudor Gothic style. The entrance in the base of the Chandler Street tower leads into a long vaulted hall extending in several segments all the way through the structure to Marston Street. On the left of the entrance hall is the main church auditorium. This contains a square, full-height, tile-vaulted, central space with balconies and pew seating filling the three transepts bordering it. The focus of the hall is the shallow, curving, raised sanctuary bordered by a low, Gothic-style, carved marble wall. Behind the sanctuary and the carved marble choir screen, the choir seating rises in the transept that forms the fourth arm of the cruciform plan church. The church walls are finished in limestone, granite, and plaster, with a slate floor, ceramic tile vaulted ceiling with limestone ribbing, and oak pews and balcony railing. Metal chandeliers supplement the light provided by the large stained glass windows in the transepts.

Across the foyer from-the church is the Bible School Auditorium, a large, two-story space with wooden balconies along the rear and two sides. A raised proscenium arch stage with a Gothic carved surround is the focus of the room. The curved ceiling is paneled with stenciled wooden beams. There are stained glass windows on the east-facing outside wall and large folding doors on the west wall that open into the foyer and church auditorium beyond.

Elsewhere in the church are several Tudor decorated lounges with oak paneling, carved stone chimney pieces, and leaded casement windows. In addition there are a large number of classrooms, club meeting rooms and dining rooms, many with oak wainscoting, brick or stone chimney pieces, plaster moldings and leaded casements. The gymnasium is a large room with a barrel vaulted ceiling, and diaper work brick walls. The Wesley Chapel is a long, narrow room with a beamed ceiling, slate paving and plaster walls. There are wooden open back pews, and the sanctuary is furnished in hand carved oak which matches the carved wooden frieze with its wheat and grapevine motifs. The leaded windows are glazed with geometric patterned Grisaille stained glass.

Specific dates: 1922-26
Architect: William E. N. Hunter (1858-1947) of Detroit

Metropolitan United Methodist Church originated with the merger of two smaller congregations: the Woodward Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, organized in 1885, and the Oakland Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, organized ten years later. The merged congregations dedicated their first church on April 27, 1902 Woodward Methodist Episcopal Church (because it was located at the then extreme. northern part of the city). On December 24, 1916 fire destroyed the church auditorium. This disaster spurred the congregation to build a new edifice. On June 4, 1923 a cornerstone was laid, and the congregation renamed Metropolitan Methodist, due to the continued expansion of the city of Detroit many miles north of the chosen location.

William E. N. Hunter, a member of the congregation, planned the massive structure of Massachusetts granite and gray Ohio sandstone. The building was dedicated on January 17, 1926. The total cost of construction exceeded $1,500,000 and the structure is said to have been the first million-dollar-plus building in the history of American Methodism. Membership reached a peak of over 7,000 members by 1951. Today, well over 2,000 members still worship in this massive Collegiate Gothic structure. Metropolitan's architect, W. E. N. Hunter, is one of Michigan's most prolific and accomplished, early twentieth-century architects of Protestant churches, and Metropolitan is significant as his masterpiece.