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How’d they do that?

July 9, 2015


Detroit was once the fourth largest city in the United States, a place whose individual and corporate wealth manifest itself in extraordinary architecture. Happily for me, this wealth coincided with the Akron-Auditorium movement. Buildings like Woodward Avenue Presbyterian church resulted.

The exterior of the building appears on many postcards of the era—it was begun in 1908—but the interior that once resonated with Christian hymn tunes now hosts pigeons and bats in an environment of mildew and pealing lead-based paint. These romantic near-ruins remind me of the Minerva Medica in Rome.


The deterioration of Roman antiquity affords us an opportunity to see how their architect-engineers achieved such remarkable interior volumes. Happily, some photographer recorded the construction of Woodward Presbyterian and answered the question: How’d they do that? Architect Sidney Rose Badgley produced so many church of this sort that he may well have done his own steel detailing.


Construction began in 1910 and was complete the following year. Badgely’s insertion was the magnificent lantern of Ely Cathedral.



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  1. Bookends in Detroit | Building the Social Gospel

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