Historic Detroit

Trinity Lutheran Church

In the early part of the 1900s Detroit’s religious community, like the rest of the city, was going through a building boom.

Trinity Lutheran Church congregation was founded in 1850 following a large influx of German immigrants who settled along the Gratiot corridor, slightly northeast of the city. In the 1920s, Charles Gauss, one of those hardworking, hard-saving Immigrants, approached his pastor about building a cathedral in thanks to God for sparing his young daughter from a serious illness. Gauss was as generous, and no expense was spared. In 1928, the cornerstone was laid and work began. The church would open in 1931.

The architect was W.E.N. Hunter of Detroit, who had already designed several Detroit area churches. The style is Neo-Gothic, specifically Sixteenth Century English Gothic Pier and Clerestory.

The altar and baptismal font are Botticino Italian marble, and the altar, as well as many of the church’s other stone carvings, was modeled by Peter Bernasconi of Detroit. The baptismal font was made by the Gorham Co. of New York.

The bells were made and installed by John Taylor of Loughborough, Lestershire, England.

The murals and fresco work were done by Viggo Ramsbusch of New York, who decorated more than 1,000 churches, synagogues and other public spaces, including the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York and the stained-glass windows at St. Bartholomew’s in New York on Park Avenue.

The stained-glass windows were done by Henry Lee Willet of Philadelphia, who also designed and installed the windows at St. John the Divine in New York, the Washington Cathedral in Washington D.C., and many others. All the windows were designed crafted and installed in the same year. The windows were restored by the original company, Willet Stained Glass, in 1996-98.

The tile mosaics are by Pewabic Pottery.

The Historic Trinity organ was designed and built by Ernest Skinner, regarded as the premier organ builder of his time. Most of Skinner’s instruments were replaced or rebuilt beyond recognition, but after World War II, Trinity’s membership was declining along with the city’s population, and there was never enough money for extensive repairs or renovations. Consequently, it remains a pristine example of the best in early 20th-century organ building. In 1991, the organ was fully restored by Skinner scholars.