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First Congregational Church of Detroit - National Fund For Sacred Places
2018 Cohort

First Congregational Church of Detroit

Detroit, Michigan

First Congregational Church of Detroit was established in 1844 by abolitionists.

First Congregational Church of Detroit courtesy First Congregational Church of Detroit

First Congregational Church of Detroit courtesy First Congregational Church of Detroit

2018 Cohort

First Congregational Church of Detroit

Detroit, Michigan

First Congregational Church of Detroit was established in 1844 by abolitionists.

John Faxon, an architect from Boston, designed the ornate Romanesque and Byzantine Revival-style church that differed from most contemporary Congregationalist architecture. The elaborate ceiling paintings depicting the four Gospels were created by Miss Lyle Durgin, also of Boston. Famed architect Albert Kahn designed an addition completed in 1924. Throughout its history, First Congregational Church has remained committed to multi-culturalism.

In 2002, First Congregational Church converted its lower level into the Underground Railroad Living Museum, the only museum of its kind in the United States. The interactive museum hosts more than 85,000 visitors a year, leading visitors through the journey from enslavement to freedom and showcasing Detroit’s critical role within the Underground Railroad. In addition to visitor services, the church provides space for a variety of events, such as weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, weddings, plays, and concerts, and several city-wide annual events, such as the D-Lectricity Light/Art Festival and Noel Night.

A National Fund grant of $50,000 with another $50,000 in matching funds raised by the congregation facilitated the stabilization of the church tower in compliance with the city’s building code requirements. In October 2017, one of the sandstone columns supporting the bell tower collapsed and was temporarily shored up with steel supports, which negatively impacted the historic character of the church. Repair work involved installing new sandstone columns to match the original stone, repairing the upper copper elements, and installing new supports for the Archangel Uriel figure atop the bell tower. Representatives of First Congregational Church commented that participation in the National Fund expanded how they saw the “church as a benefit, not only to the members but to the entire community.”

First Congregational Church of Detroit courtesy First Congregational Church of Detroit

First Congregational Church of Detroit courtesy Detroit Medical Orchestra

A Postcard Tour of Historic Houses of Worship

The vast quantity of postcards depicting historic houses of worship is best evidenced through the James R. Tanis Collection of Church Postcards. The collection of more than 20,000 postcards illuminates the range of religious architecture in the United States from monumental cathedrals to one-room meeting houses. Read more for a postcard tour highlighting the history and significance of select congregations in the National Fund for Sacred Places.

James R. Tanis Collection of Church Postcards

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez