Saint Matthew's - Saint Joseph's Episcopal Church
Location Name: Saint Matthew's - Saint Joseph's Episcopal Church (Detroit, Michigan)
Location Type: Church (Episcopal)
Year Completed: 1927
Architect(s): James J. Nettleton
Saint Joseph’s Episcopal Church (as the building was originally known) was built to replace an earlier structure (which exists today as Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church), a little over one mile to the south. The original Saint Joseph’s Episcopal Church was sold to the Catholic diocese and a new building (the current Saint Matthew’s - Saint Joseph’s) was completed in 1927, designed by architect James J. Nettleton. The structure was built in the English Gothic style and made of grey limestone and dark sandstone. The sanctuary houses some fine woodwork, Pewabic tile and several stained glass windows designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
As Detroit fell on hard times throughout the 1960s and 1970s, many churches were faced with declining membership and increasing demands within the congregation and community. Like many others, Saint Joseph’s Parish was forced to merge with nearby Saint Matthew’s Parish in 1971, and the two remain linked today.
Saint Matthew’s Parish has its own interesting history, being the second oldest African American congregation in Detroit. Saint Matthew’s was formed in 1846 by organizers of the Underground Railroad and members of Second Baptist Church who decided to establish a Black Episcopalian church. Saint Matthew’s suffered from depleting membership as the Fugitive Slave Law forced many members to flee to Canada, and many members served as missionaries in West Africa. In the 1860s, Saint Matthew’s lost its status as an Episcopal parish, but reestablished in 1881 as Detroit’s African American population began to rise. Saint Matthew’s was always at the forefront of the fight for civil rights in Detroit. When formed in 1912, the Detroit chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) held its general meetings at Saint Matthew’s Church.
Saint Matthew’s - Saint Joseph’s Episcopal Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.Sources