This building is easy to overlook since it is not very distinguished but its history tells a story about how families have changed over time, about demographic shifts and about the religious innovations that have characterized the nation. The oldest part of this National Register structure was constructed in 1911. The International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) was founded in the 1740s in England as a fraternal organization with the aims of visiting the sick, relieving the distressed, buying the dead and educating orphans. English fraternal organizations such as this one and the Masons spread to the United States. With urbanization and industrialization, cities came to have a middle class population. Men in the middle and upper class families of this time often joined clubs such as the fraternal organizations that provided a social setting and, from time to time, dedicated themselves to improving their communities. The first Odd Fellows Lodge in Detroit was founded in 1843. With growth of the city and an urban middle class, additional Odd Fellows lodges were established. Amity Lodge #335 may have been the ninth Odd Fellows lodge chartered in Detroit. The Odd Fellows had a major Temple on Randolph in downtown Detroit for their activities but local lodges constructed their own facilities and, by 1911, there may have been six additional Odd Fellows buildings throughout the city.
The Amity Lodge elected to build a rather simple three-story red brick structure with limestone trim. There were three bay windows in the front facing Amity Street. There is a limestone cornice with an acanthus band. I suspect that the building today does not closely look like what it when opened in 1911 or expanded a decade later. Apparently, the present occupants have not had resources to refurbish the building.
I infer, but I do not know for sure, that the IOOF lost this building in the Depression. Very many firms went out of business in Detroit and numerous families and organizations could not make their mortgage payments. The Knights of Columbus were founded in New Haven, Connecticut in 1882 as a Catholic fraternal organization dedicated to assisting widows and children who suffered because of the early death of their bread winner. By 1898, the first Detroit Council of the Knights of Columbus was established. Many other Knights of Columbus councils were founded later. The Gabriel Richard Council was able to move into their building in 1938. Previously they met in a nearby building on East Jefferson. Almost all neighborhoods of Detroit had substantial Catholic populations as evidenced by the large Catholic churches that still grace the city’s landscape.
During the Depression, birth rates were very low as couples put off the expenses of childbearing and child rearing. But, as soon as World War II concluded, along came the Baby Boom with a change in the typical organization of middle class families. Norms gradually changed and men became somewhat more involved in raising their children such as taking their sons and daughters to week-end events. It became much less common for husbands and fathers to spend many evenings and week-ends with their male friends in the fraternal clubs. And, in Detroit, the very large Catholic population began moving to the suburbs in great numbers after 1950. By 1960, the Knights of Columbus had moved away from this building. Sometime thereafter, this building became the Supreme Temple of the Spiritual Israel Church and Its Army.
The Spiritual Israel Church is an African-American organization founded in Alabama in the early 1900s. The leader of the denomination in the 1920s, Bishop Derks Field, moved headquarters of the church to Detroit which was growing rapidly thanks to migration from Alabama and other southern states. I do not know where the church was headquarters before they took possession of this Amity Street structure. Members of this church identify themselves as Israelites while using the term Israelis to refer to residents of Israel. They hold that Jesus, Moses, Noah and Adam were all black men. In other words, when God created humans, they believe he first created a black man. The denomination also teaches that in every generation, God sends a great teacher to lead his people. In 2015 the leader is Bishop Bobby J. Davis, who identifies himself as King of Israel. The Star of David is used as the symbol of this religion. I have seen references mentioning that, in addition to this headquarters congregation, the denomination has as many as 25 other churches located throughout the United States.
Date of Construction: The northeasterly half was completed in 1911; the southwesterly half in1920
Architectural style: Classical Revival
Architects: Unknown to me
Use in 2015: Church
Website for the Spiritual Israel Church and its Army: http://siciasupreme.org/
City of Detroit Designated Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Register of Historic Places: Listed December 10, 2014; #14001011
National Register Description: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mshda/mshda_shpo_nr_amity_lodge_335_466405_7.pdf
Photograph: Ren Farley, March 24, 2015
Description prepared: April, 2015
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