Episcopalian Church of the Messiah

Episcopalian Church of the Messiah

East Grand Boulevard at East Lafayette very near the intersection of
MacArthur Bridge and East Jefferson


This is a very attractive church. It is, I believe, the third oldest church standing in Detroit. Detroit Episcopalians erected their first Detroit church on Woodward between Larned and Congress in 1828. It was a plain brick structure designed by Alonzo Merrill. The congregation grew, became more prosperous and, in 1836, had their plain brick building enlarged and made into a Gothic structure by the Irish architect, Robert T. Elliott. His work was so admired that the Gothic style was adopted as a model for Detroit churches in that era.

Charlotte Ann Taylor and her sister, Julia Ann Anderson wished to establish an Episcopalian church to serve the religious needs of the many sailors who came to Detroit's waterfront. Presumably, they wanted Robert Elliott to design their church, but he died, so they turned to Calvin N. Otis of Buffalo. He designed Mariners' Church and completed it in 1849. It was moved from its location on the north side of East Jefferson to the south side where it now gracefully complements Hart Plaza and stands in lasting contrast to the Renaissance Center.

By the early 1850s, the Episcopalians needed a new and larger church, so they asked Calvin Otis to design a church to be located at the corner of Congress and Shelby. He built an early English Gothic study building with lancet windows. He added a steeple to make the church highly visible in Detroit and paid that steeple with a much smaller turret. The interior of the church was completed in a very simple manner reminiscent of a New England meetinghouse. This church became St. Paul's Protestant Episcopal Cathedral.

At the end of the Nineteenth Century, People's State Bank desired to build a large and impressive building. This is the extremely impressive bank building designed by McKim, Mead and White located at Fort and Shelby and completed in 1901. Calvin Otis' beautiful church was moved, stone by stone, to the corner of East Grand Boulevard and East Lafayette where it has stood for more than a century. Shortly thereafter the Episcopalians became constructing their cathedral at the intersection of Woodward and East Warren. The relocated church became the Church of the Messiah.

Detroit architect William Stratton supervised the move and redesign of the original church. The tall windows with their stained glass were retained but the original steeple and turret disappeared. William Stratton, as you might anticipate, augmented the renovated church with much Pewabic Tile. This church is an excellent example of how a prosperous Episcopalian congregation in a medium sized Midwestern city conceived of an English Gothic church a decade before the Civil War.

Date of Construction: 1852
Architect: Calvin N. Otis
Architectural Style: English Gothic with a New England meeting house interior
Architect for the move and renovation of the church: William Stratton
Date of removal: 1901

State of Michigan Historical Register: Listed
Photo: Ren Farley, February, 2003

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