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Despite knowing next to nothing about the church (until today), St. John’s Episcopal Church, at Woodward Avenue and I-75, has always been one of my favorite churches in the area (from an aesthetic point of view.) I used to attend grad school where Comerica Park currently stands, just south of this beautiful church. I loved looking at it when I passed by on the way home from school. I imagined it to be as awe-inspiring inside as it is on the outside. Sadly, I’ve not had a chance to worship in this fabulous place. Hopefully, this church is as dynamic spiritually as it is physically.
If you want to know more about the church, check out its website — http://www.stjohnsdetroit.org/
The Patriarch of Piety Hill
A Brief History of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Detroit, Michigan
Orchards, farms, and a few suburban homes surrounded St. John’s Episcopal Church when it was built on what was to become known as Piety Hill, on the northern outskirts of Detroit in 1860. The parish had been organized on St. John the Evangelist Day, 27 December, 1858. Henry Porter Baldwin, a successful merchant and later governor of Michigan and United States senator, conceived the idea of establishing Detroit’s sixth Episcopal parish in this outlying area, and became its principal lay leader and benefactor. He purchased and donated property (125 feet on Woodward Avenue and 175 feet on High Street – where the Fisher Freeway now runs), and underwrote the entire cost of building a chapel to seat 150 persons and a rectory.
At the dedication of the chapel in 1859, it was realized that the building was inadequate. Its pews were already over-subscribed. Jordan and Anderson, architects who had designed the chapel, were commissioned to draw plans for a church building. Just a year and a half later, on 10 December 1861, the new church was completed and consecrated.
The design of St. John’s is Victorian Gothic. The exterior is rubble limestone quarried in the downriver area and brought upstream by barge. The trim is Kelly Island sandstone. The north and south side walls and roof are supported by buttresses and hammer beam trusses. The tower and belfry rise 105 feet and the building, including the chapel, is 170 feet long and 65 feet wide. A large number of gargoyles may be seen in the roof lines and in the base of the hood moldings of the windows and doors. Gargoyles are common to early European church structures where they serve as downspouts. St. John’s gargoyles are solely decorative; some are severe, some are impish, but all are a source of interest and conjecture.
For more on the history, check out the church’s history page at its website — http://www.stjohnsdetroit.org/history/ You can explore the church’s interior in some of the photographs in the “Gallery” tab on the home page.