[graphic header] Detroit: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary, National Park Service


The Fort Street Presbyterian Church represents an important step in the evolution of American 19th "revivalist" architecture. In the 18th century, leading figures like Thomas Jefferson advocated an architecture for America derived from the design ideals of classical Greece and Rome--the same cultures that originated the ideas of "democracy." By the 1830s, however, some designers and architects had grown tired of classical antiquity's endless symmetry, and turned, ironically enough, to England for inspiration. In England, popular architects, also reacting against classical architecture's "reason" and "control," began pushing for a national "revival" of the exuberant and visually varied designs of Medieval cathedrals. American designers picked up on this European trend in architecture, and imported and reintrepreted the English "Gothic Revival." With its soaring octagonal tower, flying butresses, and lacy stonework, the 1870 Fort Street Presbyterian Church exemplifies how American architects copied elements they recognized as "Gothic" and then skillfully applied them onto simple building plans -- an American style that is now called "Victorian Gothic." Another Detroit Church, St. Paul's Cathedral, documents a later development in revivalist architecture -- the "Late Gothic Revival" -- when architects, rather than just borrowing specific Gothic elements, attempted to reproduce the spirit and forms of Medieval Cathedrals. The Fort Street Presbyterian Church, one of Michigan's oldest churches, has remained essentially unchanged despite fires in 1877 and 1914, and is a wonderful example of Victorian Gothic architecture.

The Fort Street Presbyterian Church is located at 631 West Fort Street, just east of the intersection of the Lodge Freeway (US 10) and West Fort Street (US 25.) The building is open to the public.

Fort Street Presbyterian Church Fort Street Presbyterian Church
Photograph courtesy of the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office

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