The abandoned Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church is one of the most architecturally significant buildings in Detroit

The Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church is a church in Detroit, Michigan, situated at 8501 Woodward Avenue. Sidney Badgley, the architect, designed it in the Gothic revival style in 1911.

The building is made of rock-faced brownstone with contrasting limestone trim and carved Gothic-framed windows. For a while, it was known as the Abyssinia Church of God in Christ.

In 1982, the structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The construction has since been abandoned and is deteriorating.

“This superb structure… ranks as one of the country’s most attractive churches,” said the Detroit Times on June 10, 1911.

By 1908, the Presbyterians in Detroit realized the need for a church to serve congregations in the “north” Woodward neighborhood. On March 17, 1908, the presbytery convened meetings and constituted the congregation. The church had 163 members at the time.

By January 1909, the church’s membership had increased to 325, with services held in various rented facilities as the group grew.

The church today, as seen from north Woodward Avenue. Source
An English Gothic-style church. Source: Rick Harris/Flickr
It was built in 1911 by architect Sidney Badgley. Source: Rick Harris/Flickr

The church had 742 members when the cornerstone for the new church was placed in a ceremony on January 1st, 1910, and membership had topped 2200 by 1921.

However, by the 1950s, many members had relocated to the northern suburbs of Detroit. With less than 1000 members in 1961 and only 404 in 1971, Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church began to struggle.

The main sanctuary of the Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church, view from east balcony, highlighting the curved pews and pipe organ. Source
Auxiliary sanctuary of the Woodward Presbyterian Church, separated from the main sanctuary by a sliding wood panel. Source

Rev. Sherman L. Divine was installed as the congregation’s first pastor, and he started on an ambitious construction project, picturing a sanctuary costing around $100,000. The church recruited new members and raised fresh funds.

Mrs. Tracy McGregor provided the property on which the church was built as well as the pipe organ.

Tracy and Katherine McGregor gave a property along Woodward, and the church’s cornerstone was placed on January 1, 1910. The church was consecrated on June 23, the following year, based on a design by Sidney Rose Badgley.

Detail of pipe organ. The building became a victim of theft and vandalism, and its organ pipes were scrapped in the fall of 2009. Source

In 1937, the church launched a fundraising campaign to help pay repairs to the church’s facade. The inside of the structure was also repaired, including the sanctuary, altar, and pipe organ.

Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church united with Covenant Church in 1981. The united churches still had less than 500 members, and there were only 210 by 1991.

The congregation separated from the Presbyterian church in 1993, eventually becoming the Abyssinia Interdenominational Church. When the pastor died in 2005, the church was forced to shut.

As of 2013, it seems as if the church is still lying beautifully alone. Source: Rick Harris/Flickr

The Cathedral of Praise Baptist Church bought the structure in 2009, but the expense of renovating it became prohibitively expensive.

Woodward Avenue Presbyterian was abandoned and in disrepair until the spring of 2010. A organization just acquired the property with the intention of converting it into a homeless refuge.

The main sanctuary of the Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church – view from the balcony. Source
In 1982, the building was listed under the National Register of Historic Places. Source: Rick Harris/Flickr

The church’s architecture and layout were novel at the time. It is an English Gothic-style church, trimmed in limestone with a rough rock surface, spanning 184 feet long by 104 feet broad, with a huge carved-stone entry façade.

The Woodward Avenue façade has a huge carved-stone entryway with a traceried stained glass window above, flanked by two square towers.

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