While bicycling in Detroit I see many interesting people, colorful wall paintings and beautifully restored homes. At times, I’ll stop and stare in awe at the ornate details and craftsmanship found on the exteriors of the stunning early 20th century buildings found downtown and along major streets. On a few occasions, I’ll come across a simple, unassuming building that grabs my attention. It may not be as ornate as the historic Guardian Building, one of the greatest Art Deco buildings in America. Nor does it have to be a sleek Modernist structure made of glass and white travertine like the Yamasaki designed McGregor Memorial Conference Center on the campus of Wayne State University.
Sometimes a simple building in Detroit is just plain interesting. One such building is a small, unpretentious church I saw on Piquette Street in the historic Milwaukee Junction area of the city. What initially caught my eye were the arched windows. They reminded me of a Bishop’s hat or miter, especially the two sitting on top of the stonework flanking the outer edges of the building, much like bookends.
Looking closely at the wide, arched window sections above the entrance and the framework of the doorway that stretches to the sidewalk, a face started to emerge. Not just any face, but one that may be found in the design of an African mask. The half-moon windows in the doors appeared to be eyes. The heavy, chrome padlock used to secure the steel grate looked like a nose and the flat straight line spanning the bottom of the two doors, the mouth. The two steel barred windows and white panels frame the face and the whole thing seemed to be anchored to the sidewalk by five little brown claws (made by rusty water dripping from the steel bars above) on both sides of the doors.
The church name, along with an outline of a bible was painted in red on the sidewalk in front of the place. It was the only name of the church I saw. Judging by the vintage bishop globe streetlight and the industrial look of the building, I would guess the building was once a small manufacturing facility built in the 1930’s.
Sometimes a simple building can be quite interesting.