Woodward Avenue, Churches and Other Buildings, Detroit

Siegel, Arthur S, photographer. Untitled photo, possibly related to: Detroit, Michigan. Looking north on Woodward Avenue from the Maccabee Building, with the Fisher Building at the far left and the Wardell hotel at the middle right. Wayne County United States Michigan Detroit, 1942. July. Photograph.

We’ll leave Brush Park behind and turn on to Woodward Avenue at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary and head north. Woodward Avenue is perhaps one of the most iconic streets in Detroit, and stretches all the way from the Detroit River all the way past Eight Mile Road, the city limits, all the way to the suburb of Pontiac. It is not by any means equivalent to Delmar Boulevard in St. Louis, but rather the main northern route out of the city, signed as Michigan Route 1, laid out by Augustus B. Woodward, who laid out the distinctive circular plan of the city in 1805 after the great fire.

While there are some mansions still sitting along the grand boulevard, the majority of the buildings are civic and religious in nature, making Woodward a sort of main street or Champs Elysees of Detroit.

The building above was built as a synagogue, Beth-El and was converted into the Bonstelle Theater. The Detroit Institute of Arts sits along its path, located near Wayne State University. While originally founded in 1885, it moved to its current location in 1927, in a building designed by Paul Cret.

It’s an absolutely huge museum, with one of the largest collections in the United States, the recipient of money flowing in from the booming automobile industry back in the day.

Diego Rivera famously painted murals in the building due to the patronage of Edsel Ford, the only son of Henry Ford.

There’s a debate whether or not they were all duped by the Communist-sympathizing painter or not. Regardless, the murals are extremely famous today.

Moving north, we pass by the French Renaissance Revival Merrill-Palmer House, which is now part of Wayne State. It’s one of the few survivors of the grand houses left on the avenue.

Next up is the Our Lady of the Rosary Roman Catholic Church.

Off in the distance is a whole cluster of buildings we’ll be talking about in the future.

You can actually watch the decades go by and see how various revival styles, such as the Gothic Revival style, changes.

Here is the massive Metropolitan United Methodist Church.

The congregation is the original builder, and they have stuck it out even as other churches have moved to the suburbs. A member of the church, W.E.N. Hunter, was the architect, and the present building opened in 1926.

This is Sts. Matt and Joseph’s Episcopal Church below.

Woodward Avenue became more residential further north, though it has now been plagued by demolition and suburbanization with autocentric strip malls. Below, you can see it in the past. The avenue is now upwards of ten lanes wide close to Eight Mile Road.

Detroit Publishing Co., Copyright Claimant, and Publisher Detroit Publishing Co. North Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Mich. United States Michigan Detroit, ca. 1905. Photograph.

But there is one more delight, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, which we’ll look at over the next two days.

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