Historic Detroit

Every building in Detroit has a story — we're here to share it

Ecumenical Theological Seminary

Unquestionably one of Detroit's most renowned landmark churches, the Ecumenical Theological Seminary was dedicated May 17, 1891, as the First Presbyterian Church.

The church’s architects, the firm Mason & Rice, were obviously inspired by renowned American architect Henry Hobson Richardson’s Trinity Church in Boston. The church features stained glass windows by Tiffany & Co. and Nicola d'Ascenzo Studios of Philadelphia. Among them is a window called “Flames of Fire.”

It was the First Presbyterian Church's fourth home since incorporating as the First Protestant Society of Detroit in 1821. The society was organized in 1816 by the Rev. John Monteith, whose name dots everything from schools to libraries in the city. In 1817, Monteith helped found and became the first president of what is now the University of Michigan. The congregation established Harper Hospital in Detroit in 1861.

The cornerstone was laid Oct. 7, 1889, in a program that featured speeches and remarks from officials.

The church house next door was completed in 1911.

The building's exterior was heavily altered when Woodward Avenue was widened in 1935-36, stripping the church not only of its original design, but also some of its splendor.

In 1979, the church joined the National Register of Historic Places and got itself a Michigan state historical marker the following year.

But as Detroit's white residents left for the suburbs, leading to a decrease in the number of Presbyterians in the city, the Presbytery started closing churches and merging others. In 1992, the First Presbyterian Church was leased and became the Ecumenical Theological Seminary. Ten years later, the Presbytery gave the building to the seminary.

More on this Detroit landmark coming soon.