Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 52 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Sunday, December 07, 2008

150 Years ago - December 6, 1858

Sent to the St. John's Email list on Saturday, December 6, 2008...

150 years ago tonight, December 6, 1858, Mr Henry Porter Baldwin, a prosperous Detroit merchant, called together a group of his neighbors, those who had moved 'out of town' in the area past Grand Circus Park (the park 3 blocks south of St. John's).

As the Senior Warden at St. Paul's Episcopal Church (which was then located on the Detroit River) he had a vision that Detroit would grow northward, not just along the river. Anything north of Grand Circus was considered the countryside.

In April he had purchased the lot of the farmer at the corner of Woodward and George Street (later known as High Street, then Vernor, now Fisher Freeway Service Drive). And on this December 6th night, he informed this group of neighbors that he wanted to start a new Episcopal Church. He was donating this land he had purchased, AND had already commissioned the design for a chapel (to be built first, seating 125 people) and a church seating at least 1000 to be build several years later as needed. He would also build a rectory at his own expense and donate the first $1000 towards the building of the chapel if they could raise the other $7500.

150 years ago tonight the challenge was laided down to the neighbors to begin this noble project. Had they chosen the name of the parish tonight, we might be St. Nicholas' Church....but that formality was 21 days away. They decided they would meet again in a week, with the bishop present, to see if such a project was in fact viable. But Henry Porter Baldwin, I am sure, knew it would be......