Forgotten Detroit
Jefferson Avenue Baptist


The demolition of Jefferson Avenue Baptist left me stunned. My surprise at its quick demise was due to its condition when I first found it. A friend and myself first came upon the church in early winter of 2004. We were not positive if the building was vacant. The door was open and we made our way in. Giving the building a look over we came upon opposite ends of the condition spectrum. Some parts looked like that the occupants had only stepped out for a few minutes. Paperwork still sat on the minister's desk. The library was still neatly stacked with books. China and donated canned goods filled the kitchen cupboards. The sanctuary was impressive, with all pews and fixtures intact. On the other hand, some of the classrooms looked like a bomb had gone off in them.

I didn't have my camera with me that day. We returned two weeks later and were horrified to discover the work of scrappers. Most of the pews had been smashed to bits. Two pairs of the light fixtures were gone. The kitchen and library were ransacked. As we were ready to leave a pair of white men arrived, mumbling racist remarks as they surveyed the facility. I left with the fear that the church was quickly meeting the fate of St. Cyril. When I returned a week later to find it properly secured with a posted warning to the thieves my fears were subsided. It seemed someone cared and had plans for the building.

The building was unexpectedly demolished in the spring of 2005. I guess no one cared after all. It is an unfortunate loss to the neighborhood, the church was one of the better buildings around. However, I must acknowledge the difficulty for adaptive reuse of such structures, particularly one with areas of such deterioration. I don't know what is planned for the site but I hope it is something more substantial then parking.

Copyright 1999 - 2005, David Kohrman

Last updated on June 10, 2005