First Congregational Church (Detroit)
Location Name: First Congregational Church (Detroit, Michigan)
Location Type: Church (Congregational)
Year Completed: 1891
Architect(s): John L. Faxon
First Congregational Church was established on 25 December 1844. The first two structures that the congregation called home were located near the Detroit River. First Congregational played a major role in the history of the Underground Railroad in Detroit. Helping slaves on the run make their way across the Detroit River into Canada, First Congregational was a strong part of the abolitionist movement in the decades before the Civil War.
In 1891, the current structure was completed on Woodward Avenue just north of Downtown. Architect John Lyman Faxon blended Romanesque and Byzantine styles, Faxon patterned the church after the styles popular in Venice and Ravenna, Italy. The rough-hewn red limestone and 120 foot-tall campanile distinguish First Congregational from other churches of its time. Atop the campanile stands an eight foot copper figure of the archangel Uriel. The church’s organ dates back to 1918 and was built by Casavant Freres of Quebec, Canada. Paintings of the four evangelists by Miss Lyle Durgin adorn the ceiling in the sanctuary. In 1924, an addition to the church (the Angel’s Wing Community House) was designed by architect Albert Kahn.
In addition to the historic significance of the church itself, First Congregational hosts the Underground Railroad Living Museum, a story-telling simulation of the church’s role in helping escaping slaves make their way to Canada.
First Congregational Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.Sources