Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

St. Paul A.M.E. Zion Church

This church began its life as the home of Detroit's Hungarian Jews.

It was built in 1929 on the city's northwest side, at Dexter and Lawrence streets, as the Congregation B'Nai Moshe. It was designed by the firm Kohner & Payne.

The congregation was founded on Sept. 2, 1911, and set out to continue European traditions. It was named shul “Bait Eliyahu” in honor of congregation member Elias Einzig. Its members initially met in rented quarters and a small home until its growing numbers necessitated it to build its first permanent home, in 1917, at Beaubien and Garfield streets.

The congregation found itself short on money and offered to name itself after the highest bidder. Moshe Gunsberg's family stepped up with the biggest check, and the congregation was renamed the shul “B’nai Moshe,” or the "Sons of Moshe." In 1934, the congregation merged with the Detroit Hungarian Hebrew Congregation.

Yet with the advent of the freeways and the rise of the suburbs, many of Detroit's Jews left the city. In 1959, the congregation did, too, moving to 10 Mile Road and Kenosha in Oak Park. That September, it sold this building to the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

St. Paul A.M.E. Zion had begun in 1911 in the home of C.D. Cox on Catherine Street. The Rev. James Terry was its first pastor. After the home on Catherine was destroyed by a fire, services were held temporarily in the Vaudette Theatre on Gratiot Avenue.

In 1920, the Rev. P.R. Flack ascended to become pastor and led the congregation in buying a church on Beaubien and Palmer streets, where it stayed until buying the building on Dexter from the Jewish Congregation.

In July 1992, the Congregation B'Nai Moshe left Oak Park, moving to West Bloomfield.