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Bookends in Detroit

September 9, 2016

Detroit reached the peak of its population in the 1950 census (1.8 million) and began its spiral to the desolation of today—much of that brought about by a legislature that would prefer to deny Detroiters to manage their own affairs and which, instead, placed them under the equivalent of Marshall law. The city’s architectural legacy is especially vulnerable. Somewhere I own a copy of W. Hawkins Ferry’s book The Buildings of Detroit, encyclopedic treatment of its Richardsonian buildings from the late 19th century.


Until this morning I had not seen this wonderful image of two Detroit church on prestigious Woodward Avenue and flanking one of its side streets. Presbyterians on the left; Unitarians on the right. The Unitarians are long gone and their building is included here only for its exterior appearance. [It would be surprising to find a Unitarian-Universalist building in the A-A tradition. They simply weren’t interested in the Akron idea and their congregations are rarely large enough to warrant a full-fledged A-A building.] If the Presbyterian church has an Akron component, it doesn’t seem to be connected to the auditorium, though that auditorium is visually amazing:

Farther out on Woodward there is Woodward Presbyterian church, of about the same vintage (slightly later) and a spectacular A-A example that I’ve treated elsewhere. Notice the partially open portal to the Sunday School space on the left.


Quite aside from the A-A phenomenon that has been my primary interest, Detroit is an architectural treasure that we may lose without some creative thinking.

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