Zebulon Brockway superintended the Detroit House of Corrections during the Civil War years. I believe that this was a facility for wayward young people. He apparently believed that many of his charges were in trouble because they lacked a moral compass. Thus he established a Brockway Mission in 1863. I believe this was a type of Sunday school focused upon keeping young men away from violating laws. By 1864, the Brockway Mission had a small frame chapel at the corner of Russell and Napoleon. By 1869, the Brockway Mission had evolved into the Church of the Covenant. At that time, they erected a brick building on Russell. Five years later, Church of the Covenant became a mission church of the Presbyterian Alliance of Detroit. One of the reasons for the seemingly rapid growth and success of this organization may have been that Zebulon Brockway enlisted support from two of the more prosperous men in Detroit in that post-Civil War era; John Newberry whose strategic investments helped develop the Upper Peninsula and James McMillan, the railroad car manufacturer who later represented Michigan in the United States senate.
By 1900, the Church of the Covenant found themselves surrounded by the rapidly growing and increasingly busy Eastern Market. They sold their property on Russell and purchased the land on East Grand Boulevard where the church you see pictured above is located. They opened their church in 1907, one that had seating for 700. However, they quickly discovered that it was too small for their congregation so, in 1923, it was substantially expanded to seat one thousand worshipers. The church we see now is basically the one constructed in 1907 with major addition made in the 1923 expansion.
This is a Neo-Gothic church faced in warm colored orange-brown brick with extensive stone trip. It was built upon a high basement and is in the style of the Latin Cross with an attractive gabled roof. Perhaps the most arresting feature of the church is the multi-stage tower with its octagonal spire and topped with a cross. There are lancet windows in this tower which also features a crenellated parapet.
The residential dwelling at 728 East Grand Boulevard served as the rectory for a very long time but was, I believe, constructed before the church. The five story education building to the rear of the church was added in 1923 when the seating capacity was substantially increased.
Most all of the mainstream denomination congregations in Detroit faced major challenges in the 15 years after World War II. Their congregants were moving rapidly to the suburbs so the demographic composition of their catchment areas changed quickly. Blacks arrived and, for the most part, they attended their own Jim Crow church, often Baptist, African-Methodist-Episcopal or Church of God in Christ, although the Catholics, Lutherans and Episcopalians had established Jim Crow parishes in the city. To be sure, some congregations were racially integrated but they were few in number. I believe that the Church of the Covenant sought to become one of the first racially integrated Presbyterian Churches in Detroit. I do not know about the success of their efforts. However, in 1981, Church of the Covenant merged with Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church, a congregation that met in an impressive church located in Detroit’s Upper Piety Row at 8501 Woodward at West Philadelphia. By 1993, Woodward Avenue Presbyterian had sold that church to Abyssinia Interdenominational Church.
Apostle Pastor Vernell Benjamin Washington organized Trinity Deliverance Church in Detroit on November 22, 1970. By 1973, that congregation found a home in a church on the west side of the city; that is on Wyoming near Oakman Boulevard. The congregation increased and sought a more impressive church. In 1982, they were able to purchase the former home of the Church of the Covenant and moved into the impressive Neo Gothic church with their first services held on Christmas Day of that year. This is an unusual geographic move since most congregations moved from Detroit to the suburbs or from areas close to the center of Detroit to more peripheral locations. Trinity Deliverance, however, moved from the distant west side of the city to an area fairly close to the center of the city.
Date of original construction: 1907
Architecture for the original church: Unknown to me
Architectural style: Neo Gothic
Builders of the original structure: William H. Stokes and George F. Whittingham
Date of reconstruction and expansion: 1923
For additional information, see: http://www.detroitmi.gov/CityCouncil/LegislativeAgencies/HistoricDesignationAdvisoryBoard
City of Detroit Designated Historic District: Listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Register of Historic Places: This church is within the East Grand Boulevard Historic District which was added to the National Register in 1999.
Photograph: Ren Farley; November 17, 2012
Description prepared: December, 2012
Return to Religious Sites
Return to Homepage