Architectural History of Trinity Episcopal Church

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In the past I have written about the stained glass windows in Trinity Episcopal Church and their history.

However, I have not yet focused on the rich history of the current church building, 304 S. Monroe St., which was constructed from the ashes of the devastating Monroe Business District fire that took held on March 18, 1868. The original timber -framed church was built in 1833.

I contacted Trinity Episcopal Church historian Fiona Skryzmoski (who is also the parish administrator) who found the following text in the Monroe Commercial of Tuesday, June 25, 1868 which reads:

Trinity Episcopal Church, 304 S. Monroe Street, on a bright sunny day.  The current church was built from the ashes of the devastating fire in the Monroe business district, which occurred on March 18, 1868. The original frame church was built in 1833. Photo provided

“The church, when completed, will be a fine structure. It is built of Monroe limestone, with Sandusky blue stone trim, in the Gothic architectural style. Its floor size is 35 by 78 feet, including the choir. [the part of a church near the altar, reserved for the clergy and choir, and typically separated from the nave by steps or a screen]. The tower is 12 square feet, on the northeast corner of the building – the entrance is through the tower. The facade of the church, including the tower, will be approximately 57 feet, externally. Towards the rear of the building, on the north side, is an organ transept [a transverse part of any building, which lies across the main body of the building. In churches, a transept is an area set crosswise to the nave, or main part of the church, in a cruciform building within the Romanesque and Gothic Christian church architectural traditions], 12 by 16 feet, and on the opposite side, at the rear, a sacristy transept 10 by 12 feet. The depth of the choir is 18 feet. The tower will have an elevation of 81 feet. The roof of the building must be covered with slate. It will make an extremely neat, tasteful and practical little church, and will be quite an adornment to our town.”

Skryzmoski mentioned that Trinity Episcopal Church was designed by Gordon W. Lloyd (1832-1905). Lloyd was a successful and popular architect who specialized in the design of Episcopal churches and other religious and large-scale buildings in a variety of styles, including Gothic, Victorian-Italian, Romanesque Revival and others. Lloyd was famous for using unique varieties of stone to give his buildings an imposing presence and what turned out to be timeless durability.

This shows the stained glass window that adorns the vestibule of Trinity Episcopal Church in Monroe.  It was designed by architect Gordon W. Lloyd (1832-1905) who specialized in the design of Episcopal churches and other large-scale building projects.  Photo provided

For example, nearly 20 years after the design of Trinity Episcopal Church (1890), Lloyd was commissioned by David Whitney Jr., who was once considered Detroit’s wealthiest citizen when he died in 1900 ( worth nearly $15 million – which would be $388 million in today’s dollars). ) to design a house to be built at the corner of Woodward and Canfield Avenues.

The mansion (which cost $400,000 to build, or $9.5 million today) was built with pink-colored South Dakota jasper, a type of granite, and laid in a freestone pattern random surrounded by accented rows of gray granite. Stone carvings, intertwining leaf patterns, grotesques, and David Whitney’s initials are also incorporated throughout the house.

For the Trinity Episcopal Church project, Lloyd was able to salvage a design element from the original church – the baptismal font. He incorporated it into the overall design, along with the stained glass windows designed by George Burns said to produce “bright sunlight streaming through the richly tinted stained glass windows in a flood of soft light” – noted in the church’s dedication of February 1, 1871.

A Michigan Historical Marker recognizes Trinity Episcopal Church in Monroe as a Michigan Registered Historic Site.  Services have been held in the building designed by 19th century architect Gordon W. Lloyd since 1869. Photo provided

A Michigan historical marker honors many aspects of the history of Trinity Episcopal Church, including some of the stained glass windows I have previously described as well as the parish hall and parsonage built in 1898 and the new parish hall added in 1956.

Tom Adamich is president of the Visiting Librarian Service, a business he has operated since 1993. He is also a project archivist for the Greening Nursery Company and Family Archives.

Tom Adamitch
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