National Register of Historic Places Inventory - First Baptist Church of Detroit

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 First Baptist Church of Detroit. Also known as Peoples Community Church. Located at 8601 Woodward Avenue at Pingree in Detroit, Michigan.

Format: Text/jpg
Original Format: Other
Language: English
Rights Management: First Baptist Church of Detroit
Contributing Institution:
Contributor: Carlton Rolle
National Register of Historic Places Inventory - First Baptist Church of DetroitNational Register of Historic Places Inventory - First Baptist Church of Detroit
Transcript: The structure, measuring 120 feet long by 110 feet wide, is located on the northwest corner of Woodward Avenue and Pingree Street in Detroit. The First Baptist Church (now Peoples Community Church) is a rockfaced, limestone, Gothic-style church. It subscribes to the standard elevation -treatment for Gothic-style churches begun in the mid-nineteenth century. A gabled facade dominated by a massive, Gothic-arched traceried window is balanced by a large, square, buttressed corner tower with a louvered belfry. The Gothic-arched main entrance to the church is located in the base of the tower. Adjacent to the south side of the flat-roofed tower is the educational wing, which is similar in design to the church in that it is a rockfaced, limestone structure with Gothic arched windows and corner buttresses. First Baptist Church is notable for its extreme simplicity and lack of carved ornament, depending more for its impact on its bold detailing and massive proportions.

The spectacular interior conforms to the Akron Plan, auditorium-church type with a large, square, central space containing wooden pews arranged in a semi-circle focusing on a raised sanctuary platform on an interior wall. In the case of this church, a broad, curving balcony completely encompasses the partially circular, barrel-vaulted room, with the portion over the sanctuary containing the choir loft and the exposed organ pipes. The low sanctuary area under the balcony choir loft is backed by Gothic arcading painted cream and gilded like the rest of the architectural detailing in the church, except for the dark oak wainscoting which encompasses the room. The curving balcony front is paneled with a Gothic arch motif in high relief. The transepts are fitted out as classrooms on both the main floor and balcony level, but can be opened to the auditorium by the use of sliding, glazed partitions to provide overflow seating space if necessary. In the center of the curving ceiling is a large, ocular, leaded glass skylight.

Specific dates: 1909-1910
Architect: Guy J. Vinton (1859-1910) of Detroit, Michigan

First Baptist Church (now of Southfield, Michigan) was founded by Baptists from New York and New England on October 20, 1827 under the leadership of Reverend Henry Davis. A frame building at Fort and Griswold streets was erected in 1831 and remained in use until replaced by a spacious brick meeting house which, surmounted by a classic cupola, was dedicated on January 11, 1835. The church built larger structures in 1859-63 and 1871-75. The movement of members from the downtown area resulted in the construction of the present random ashlar, Gothic structure, dedicated on May 8, 1910. Guy J. Vinton (1859-1910), more prominently known as a builder in Detroit, was the architect of the structure. In 1957, faced with a dwindling membership, the congregation sold the building to the Peoples Community Church, an east-side Detroit block congregation. First Baptist then erected a modern new sanctuary in Southfield, Michigan, which was dedicated in June 1965. The 1909-1910 First Baptist Church is notable for its broad auditorium in which the gallery entirely encircles the room and the choir and organ are centrally located in the gallery above and behind the pulpit.