The Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church is an abandoned church located at 8501 Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. It was built in the Gothic revival style by the architect Sidney Badgley and was active to worshippers from 1911 to 2004.
The most distinguishing feature of Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church is a tall octagonal lantern that rises from the center of the roof that is flanked by twin, low towers that frame the church’s gabled entrance. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The structure is now abandoned and falling in to ruin.
As Detroit continued to grow, it was decided that a church was needed to serve what was then the city’s northern reaches. The move to establish a church along the northern fringes of Detroit began at a trustees meeting of the Presbyterian Alliance held in the Westminster Presbyterian Church on March 11, 1907. Richard Owen, L.C. Stanley, Irwin Fullerton, Dr. George H. Lau, and D.H.F. Wills then headed the North Woodward Presbyterian Committee to organize the church.
By January of 1909, the membership of the church had grown to 325, holding services in different rented spaces as the congregation gained members. As the cornerstone for the new church as laid in a ceremony on January 1st, 1910, the church numbered 742 members and membership surpassed 2200 by 1921.
By 1924 the church had an active athletic league, with bowling, tennis, basketball, baseball, and golf teams. Membership continued to rise, reaching 2,000 by 1931. In 1937, the church embarked on a fundraising effort to support repair work on the church exterior, the condition of which was, in the words of church members, “frankly, shabby.” The repairs also extended to the inside of the building, repairing the sanctuary, altar, and pipe organ.
In July 1940, the church’s nearly two thousand members unanimously approved the Rev. Herbert Beecher Hudnut as pastor of the Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church. He was installed Oct. 18, 1940, and was the longest-serving pastor in the church’s history.
However, by the 1950s, many members were leaving Detroit for the northern suburbs. Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church began to struggle, with fewer than 1000 members in 1961 and only 404 in 1971. In 1981, Woodward Avenue Presbyterian merged with Covenant Church. The combined churches still had fewer than 500 members, and by 1991 there were only 210.
In 1993, the congregation split from the Presbyterian church, eventually becoming the Abyssinia Interdenominational Church. The church closed on the death of the pastor in 2005. Since then the former Woodward Avenue Presbyterian building has been in a state of limbo, shifting from one owner to another as plans to renovate have fallen through. In November, the abandoned building was acquired by the Cathedral of Praise Baptist Church, which had plans to renovate the structure and have it reopened by July 2010.
Woodward Avenue Presbyterian is an English Gothic-style church, faced with rough rock and trimmed with a contrasting limestone, and measuring 184 feet long by 104 feet wide. The Woodward Avenue façade boasts a massive carved-stone entrance with a traceried stained glass window set above; two square towers flank the center entrance.
The Woodward Avenue façade boasts a massive carved-stone entrance with a traceried stained glass window set above; two square towers flank the center entrance. Along the side, gabled transepts contain full-height traceried windows. A two-story educational wing, built at the same time as the main church building, abuts the rear. A lantern dome, raised above the roofline, lights the auditorium.