From the Archives of The Cathedral Church of St. Paul

From the Archives of St. Paul's Cathedral, Detroit

Photos and articles from the Archives of The Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Detroit, Michigan 1824-2010
  • Although it's not stated in this biography, Mr. Eaton followed in the footsteps of his ancestors as a vestryman at St. Paul's.  He was instrumental in the installation of the flagpole standing on Woodward Avenue and for many years he organized the Canadian American Friendship Service and the Veteran's Day Service.  Sadly he was killed in an automobile accident while driving home from church one day.  Aug. 3, 1893DetroitWayne CountyMichigan, USADeath: Aug. 13, 1978BERRIEN CLARK EATON, president of the Eaton Clark Company, manufacturers and importers of chemicals and dyestuffs and the most important concern of its kind in the state, is...

  • Theodore Horatio Eaton Jr. Birth: Jan. 16, 1842SkaneatelesOnondaga CountyNew York, USADeath: Nov. 6, 1910DetroitWayne CountyMichigan, USATHEODORE HORATIO EATON (Junior) of Detroit, the son of Theodore H. Eaton, whose biography appears elsewhere in the work, and Anne Eliza Gibbs, was born in Skaneateles, New York, January 16, 1842, in the home where his mother spent her childhood, and where his parents were married in 1839 and lived until May, 1842. He died in Detroit on November 6, 1910, following a short illness.He was taken to Detroit when four months old, and his father's large residence on Jefferson avenue, near Russell street, was completed in...

  • Resolutions of St Paul's Church DetroitJanuary 2nd 1893AT the regular meeting of the rector wardens and vestrymen of St Paul's Church in the City of Detroit held January 2nd 1893 the following minute was made and entered upon the records. It is with great sorrow that we have heard of the death of the Hon Henry P. Baldwin which occurred on December 31st 1892 and we desire hereby to express our high estimate of his character and usefulness during the many years that he has lived in this city. Since 1838 he has been a communicant of the Protestant Episcopal Church...

  • Major John BiddleJohn Biddle was born in Philadelphia in March 1792 to a prominent American family. He was the son of Charles Biddle, Vice President of Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War and nephew of Commodore Nicholas Biddle who later became President of the United States Bank. A brother, Major Thomas Biddle, served in the U. S. Army and another brother, Commodore James Biddle, was a noted Naval officer.A few years after graduation from Princeton College, John Biddle entered the United States Army, serving for most of the War of 1812 in the Niagara Frontier under General Scott. He was promoted...

  • The Wireless Age, Volume 10October 1922Embarking Upon a Great Missionary Enterprise in the RadioBroadcasting of the Gospel on a Scale That Would HaveAstonished the Old-Time ApostlesBy R. E. Flynn THE service was over. The large congregation slowly walked out of the Cathedral as the last notes of the recessional hymn were heard from the choristers, marching away in the cloister.By the center door of the church stood the man who for over one year has numbered his "flock" in the hundreds of thousands. He was bidding his "visible" friends a kindly good night.As the crowd...


Our History

"A Cathedral is something more than an imposing pile of stone; something more than carved oak and sculptured marble, woven tapestries, stained glass and embroidered fabrics. This Cathedral stands on the most crowded of thoroughfares in the heart of a great city. It is the symbol of the spiritual in the midst of all that is material! It is a reminder of the invisible and eternal surrounded by the visible and temporal. In the midst of the roar and mad rush of a materially dynamic city, what better place could be found, than in the heart of it, for a symbol and reminder of the fact that man cannot live by bread alone?"

The Very Reverend Samuel S. Marquis
First Dean of the Cathedral, 1908-1915

In Actuality A Cathedral is a church that may house not only a parish congregation, but is designated to serve as the central church for its Diocese (a geographic and administrative affiliation of Episcopal churches). The Diocese is headed by a Bishop (from the Latin episcopus, “bishop,” as is the word “Episcopal” itself) and the Cathedral is the church in which he or she is centered. The cathedral itself is under the pastoral care of priests known as canons, the head of which is the Cathedral’s Dean, who serves as the Bishop’s representative.

History of the Parish

Though St. Paul’s has existed as a Cathedral only since 1908, St. Paul’s has existed as a parish since 1824. St. Paul’s Parish was founded in what was at the time the Northwest Territories, as Michigan did not become a state until 1837. It is the oldest Episcopal parish in the Northwest Territories.

It should be noted, though, that Episcopalians were relative latecomers to the city. Detroit had by this time already existed for well over a century, having been founded by the French in 1701 and chartered as a city in 1801. Christianity had taken root here from the very start of settlement. Antoine de la Mothe de Cadillac, founded not only Detroit but also the Catholic parish of Ste. Anne’s on the second day of French settlement on the banks of the Detroit River. Still alive and very active in southwest Detroit, Ste. Anne’s is presently the second-oldest continuously functioning parish in the United States.

Episcopalians first came to the area when Detroit fell under British control, from 1760 until 1796, and was thus part of Upper Canada. Missionaries representing the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, along with immigrants from English-speaking countries, first brought Anglicanism to Detroit, and the need arose for a parish to serve this community. The call was first answered by The Rev. Richard Pollard, resident minister in Sandwich (south of present-day Windsor, Ontario), who crossed the Detroit River in a canoe in order to minister to Anglicans, now Episcopalians, on what was now the American side of the river. He was followed by The Rev. Richard Cadle, who in 1824 became the rector of the newly formed St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

The original site of St. Paul’s was on what was and remains Detroit’s "main street," Woodward Avenue, in the block bounded by Congress and Larned – presently the site of One Detroit Center (1992). The church moved to its second site by 1851, to the corner of Congress at Shelby on the near west side of downtown.

Largely on the initiative of St. Paul’s, the Diocese of Michigan was organized in 1832, and parishioners led by C. C. Trowbridge founded Christ Episcopal Church on Jefferson Avenue in 1846. Christ Church still occupies both its original site and its original building, now one of the oldest buildings in the city of Detroit. Other parishioners, led by Henry Baldwin, left in 1859 to found St. John’s Episcopal Church on Woodward Avenue. St. John’s also occupies its original building and site, though both have been altered with the widening of Woodward Avenue and the building of Comerica Park next door. This history is a work in progress; please continue to check back.

The Building

The Cathedral Church of St. Paul was designed by Ralph Adams Cram (1863-1942) of the firm Cram, Goodhue, Ferguson of Boston and New York, and who was then America’s leading exponent of the Gothic Revival architectural style. He chose to design the Cathedral in the 14th-century English style of Gothic architecture, an early form of this style in which the features which one normally associates with Gothic architecture – soaring, pointed arches, wide expanses of stained glass, and elaborate tracery – are present, though in simplified and severe form. The massive pillars which support the roof (and eventually the central tower, should it be built) are more typical of Norman architecture, the architectural style which preceded Gothic. Likewise, the very slight points to the arches are closer to the rounded arch that was typical of the Norman style. Even so, in the Cathedral we see the elements of the Gothic style emerging. For example, the very small flying buttresses which help support the weight of the lead roof, the arched roof of the nave, and a tower at the crossing are all typical of Gothic architecture. Built entirely of limestone, the Cathedral is also built according to medieval construction techniques. There is no steel superstructure in the building at all – a surprising fact, given its wide use in commercial buildings and skyscrapers of the same period – so that its enormous weight is entirely self-supported.

Cram felt that the Gothic style best expressed humankind’s relationship God, and he deliberately designed the building to put that idea forth. The Cathedral is intentionally dim, for example, to suggest the mystery of the Divine, and much of the lighting that you see in the Cathedral is actually a later addition. Of the building, Cram said that "In St. Paul’s Cathedral an attempt has been made to adapt to modern ideals, conditions, and environment that style of architecture which Christian civilization developed for its own self-expression, the so-called Gothic of the middle ages." In the massive power of its overall size and in the delicacy in its details, the Cathedral is certainly one of Cram’s best works, and it remained one of his personal favorites up to his death.

The Cathedral is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sources: Kathryn Bishop Eckert, Buildings of Michigan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). Volume 1 in series Buildings of the United States, Society of Architectural Historians.

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