The existing structure was built in 1924 after a small chapel for the congregation of St. Luke’s Evangelical Church had a fire and burnt to the ground in 1917. It took a number of years after the fire for the congregation to secure financing due to the high prices during the war period. Eventually the property fell into the hands of the Home Mission Board and Church Extension Society of the United Lutheran Church in America. From there, they worked towards securing the funding to erect the church structure that is standing here today. It was built by Spier and Gehrke Architects to become the Unity English Lutheran Church.
The church itself has been home to a few different congregations including St. Marks Presbyterian and most recently, New St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church. The church was home to many civil rights warriors in its history. (See article from The DETROIT FREE PRESS.)
This church stands the true test of time. One block North of the origination of the 1967 Rebellion, the church remained intact and undisturbed. At some point between the 1950s and 1960s, the original stained glass feature window was removed and blocked up. The goal when restoring and renovating the structure was to install a modern interpretation of what once was there. The new feature window installed in early 2020, is a stainless steel art piece built by The Nordin Brothers of Detroit.
While the interior of the building has remained structurally the same, The Congregation has put their focus on preserving the integrity, historical detail and finishes of the space. Great efforts were taken to restore all original stained glass double-hung windows, original maple flooring, and a 150 year old organ to ensure the interior space maintains its original feel of a church. The organ, a major focal point of the interior, originally built by Samuel Russell Warren around 1870 for St Thomas Belleville, Ontario and rebuilt by Casavant in the early 1900’s, still stands tall in the Northwest corner of the main room. It made its way to this Detroit building sometime in the 1940’s or 1950’s.
Detroit coffee shop in church was home to civil rights warriorsArticle: The DETROIT FREE PRESS