This is the church of the first Methodist congregation in Michigan. Indeed, I believe this is the oldest Protestant congregation in Michigan. It waqs founded in 1810. The British took control of Detroit from the French in autumn 1860 but there were few English setters. Primarily, Detroit was a lightly fortified military outpost with, typically, fewer than 100 British soldiers. Between 1760 and 1796 when the American replaced the British, no Church of England parish was establisherd in Detroit. Territorial Governor Lewis Cass approved the charter for Centraol Methodist in 1822, less than a century after John Wesley founded the Methodist reform movement in Savannah. In the early 1860s, this congregation had to make a decision about building a new church since their wooden structure at Woodward and State was razed by fire.
They selected Gordon Lloyd as their architect, an architect whose imprint in Detroit is still large because of the churches he built. Lloyd was born in England but raised in Sherbrooke, Quebec and then returned to England for his training. He traveled extensively in northern Europe, developing an appreciation of northern Gothic cathedrals before migrating to Detroit in 1858 where he quickly won commissions. Not far from Central Methodist is Christ Church on East Jefferson, a structure Lloyd designed just before designing the church you see pictured here. Lloyd eventually designed about three dozen church throughout the Midwest including the very attractive St. James Episcopal on Grosse Ile
Episcopalian congregations at this time had fixed ideas about the structure of a church, but Methodists were more flexible, so Lloyd could be imaginative when he designed this beautiful structure. He specialized in Gothic structures, so he built a light gray, rock-faced limestone church with dark stone trim. If you walk around this church and examine it, you will see the skills of Gordon Lloyd illustrate themselves almost a century and a half after he completed the building. You might note the impressive clock in the tower of the church. It has been in operation since 1867. You might also compare this Gothic church to the Gothic-influenced Fyfe Shoe Building directly across Woodward. The original stained glass windows in Central Methodist were imported from England, but they deteriorated so the congregation, in 1955, commissioned the Willet Studios of Philadelphia to replace the windows with new stained glass resembling windows found in the Gothic cathedrals of medieval England and France. All of the windows focus upon the life and teachings of Christ applied to contemporary issue, so the Statue of Liberty and the United Nations Building are included in the stained glass windows.
In 1936, Woodward Avenue was widened and the length of the church was cut by 28 feet. The steeple was moved 26 feet to the east. That is, the church was reduced in size and the steeple moved back from what had been Woodward.
The six story parish house to the east of the church was designed by Smith, Hyinchyman and Grylls and completed at the time of World War I. In the early years of this new century, the leaders of this church announced plans to construct a residential building on property adjoining the church that they owned. Presumably, this will be an investment property for the parish as they seek to capitalize upon the increasing popularity of living in downtown Detroit.
Very informative pictures of this church are presented in the 2012 book cited below.
Architect: Gordon Lloyd
Style: Gothic Revival
Date of Completion: 1867
Use in 2013: Eccelastical building
For additional information, see: Marla O. Collum, Barbara E. Krueger and Dorothy Kostuch, Detroit's Historic Places of Worship (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2012)
Website for church: http://www.centralumchurch.com/
Photo: R. Farley, April 2002
State Historical Register: P25042, Listed June 6, 1977
State Historical Marker: Erected: June 19, 1979
National Historical Register: Listed August 3, 1982.
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