Historic Detroit

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North Woodward Methodist Episcopal Church

It might have been one of Detroit's more beautiful churches, but it would not be one of its long-lasting ones.

The congregation was organized May 1, 1900, growing out of the combination of the Woodward Avenue and Oakland Avenue Methodist Episcopal churches. Neither congregation was particularly flush with cash, so the merger was hoped to help provide a more prosperous and stable church for the parishioners of each. With this in mind, though this church's construction was announced in 1901, it would take several years to raise the necessary funds to start it, let alone complete it.

The North Woodward Methodist Episcopal Church was designed by the firm Kastler & Hunter, with William E.N. Hunter serving as lead architect. The church was built along what was then far north, an area of the city that had been named Upper Piety Hill for the vast number of churches built along Woodward Avenue. The church stood on the northeast corner of Woodward and Melbourne avenues and was built in the Italian Renaissance style. It had a frontage of about 80 feet along Woodward Avenue and 140 feet along Melbourne. It had a Spanish-tile roof and terra cotta trimmings.

Ground was broken in March 1905, with the cornerstone being placed Sept. 16, 1905. In previewing the cornerstone-laying ceremony, the Detroit Free Press proclaimed Sept. 16, 1905, that the congregation was "one of the most progressive churches of the denomination in Detroit."

Bishop Charles C. McCable led the dedicatory services for the new church on Nov. 25, 1906. The congregation was about 700 members strong at the time. The church cost about $100,000 to build, the equivalent of about $3.4 million in 2023 dollars, when adjusted for inflation.

Despite taking five years to build, it would take only one night to destroy it: The church was destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1916.

After the fire, the suddenly homeless congregation met in the nearby Regent Theatre at first, although Temple Beth El offered the use of its synagogue on Sundays when Jewish services did not use it.

A temporary church for the congregation was opened in 1920 on the site of this church, at 8300 Woodward. This replacement building, which still stands, was also designed by William E.N. Hunter. The building was most recently home to a Value World.

The congregation moved into their new home, the Metropolitan United Methodist Church at 8000 Woodward Ave. six years later, in 1926.

More on this building coming soon.