Monday, November 16, 2015

(Photos) Detroit's King Solomon MB Church

Detroit has many historic churches--and one of the most compelling stories of those houses of worship belongs to King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church on the corner of 14th and Marquette in the rundown NW Goldberg neighborhood.

DetroitUrbEx wrote a detailed account about this church that I drew heavily upon for this post.

In the early 20th century there was a large influx of southerners--both white and black--into Detroit as the auto industry took off. Unfortunately they didn't leave their prejudices at home.

Temple Baptist, an all-white congregation, built the Tudor Revival church in 1917. Five years later King Solomon, a predominantly African-American church, was founded in the Black Bottom neighborhood. Temple's evangelizing mission was wildly popular and the church had over 3,000 members thirty years later. By then the church had outgrown its space and it moved to the Petosky-Otsego neighborhood where it once held outdoor revivals. Temple moved one more time in Detroit--then to the suburbs. In 1986 the first black member joined, at the urging of its pastor, Truman Dollar. But Dollar got caught up in a sex scandal, resigned, and later committed suicide. NorthRidge Church in Plymouth is considered the successor of Temple.

"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." Ephesians 2:19-20.

An art-deco style auditorium, with a capacity of 5,000, opened in 1937 across 14th Street from the church.

When King Solomon moved in, the auditorium was one of the largest black-owned meeting spaces in the Motor City. It was there that future US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was then president of the NAACP, spoke in 1954. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed parishioners twice, in 1958 and 1963. Malcolm X also twice spoke at the church in '63--where he gave his non-conciliatory "Message to the Grass Roots" speech--and he presented another fiery address a year later.

Religion, like the arts, doesn't always pay the bills, so retail space was part of the Temple/King Solomon complex.

NW Goldberg's sidewalks are crumbling and covered with vegetation--forcing residents to walk on the streets, which are in shoddy shape too. There are more vacant lots than occupied houses there.

The membership of King Solomon Baptist Church has withered to about 150 people, DetroitUrbEx reported that in 2011 the church was being powered by a generator and being heated by propane.

But this summer the church was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

So ends another only-in-Detroit story.

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