Boston architect, Ralph Adam Cram, carefully studied Gothic architecture, wrote extensively about it and then popularized the Gothic style for this nation’s churches. Residents of Detroit are fortunate to be able to readily view three examples of Cram’s creativity: the Cathedral of St. Paul at East Warren and Woodward; St. Florian’s Church in Hamtramck and the church you see pictured on this page.
St. Andrew’s was Cram’s first commission outside the state of Massachusetts. For this modest but striking church, he selected the Perpendicular Gothic style. This was the third and final phase of English Gothic architecture and was popular from the late Fourteenth Century until the early Sixteenth Century.
Perpendicular Gothic incorporated strong vertical lines, especially in wall panels and in the window tracery. You may observe this in the massive window behind the altar in St. Andrews, a window that must be exceptionally attractive when the early evening summer sun shines through it. Roof vaulting in Perpendicular Gothic is more ornate than in early phases, and flying buttresses attained their most graceful and decorative form in the Perpendicular Gothic era. Because of advances in the design of arches, windows in Perpendicular Gothic church are especially large and walls relative small. This gave architects more opportunities to work in impressive tracery. Another engineering advanced informed improved joining of beams and a better understanding of how roofs could be supported. This led hammerbeam roofs that effectively distributed the weight of the arched roof onto the supporting timbers. Among the most lucid examples of original Perpendicular Gothic structure are Westminster Hall in London; the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Cathedral and King’s College Chapel at Cambridge.
St. Andrew’s Parish was founded as an Episcopalian Sunday school on April 8, 1885, and original met in the front room of a home on Merrick Avenue. By January of 1886, the parish had erected a church at Fourth and Putnam. As the Episcopalian population in this neighborhood of Detroit grew and prospered, the parish had the resources to construct a truly beautiful, if small, church, the Ralph Adam Cram’s structure that you see. This was one of the first churches established in this area of Detroit. On Tuesday of Holy Week in 1906, the church burned because of an electrical fire. Some six years later, the church was restored. As Detroit’s Cultural Center and Wayne State expanded after World War II, the Episcopalian population moved away. In 1961, the dioceses leased this church to Wayne State for 99 years. The University uses it as a student chapel and a concert hall.
Architect: Ralph Adam Cram of Cram, Wentworth and Goodhue
Architectural Style: Perpendicular Gothic
Materials: Bedford limestone with Berea Sandstone trims
Date of Completion: 1902
Use in 2004: Chapel and concert hall for Wayne State University
City of Detroit Local Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Places: P 25218; Listed April 24, 1981
National Register of Historic Places: Listed May 1, 1986
Photograph: Ren Farley; October, 2004
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