Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Detroit's Mariners' Church: Preserved in a classic song

As perhaps one of Detroit's best examples of old-meets-new (and there are a bunch of them), the Mariners' Church stands in the shadows of the RenCen; most of us have driven past it countless times. Here's why sometimes, it's better to walk rather than drive.

The Mariners' Church, according to the National Register of HIstoric Places marker out front, tells the story of how the church was built in 1849 at Woodward and Woodbridge, just a block or two away. The church was originally built to "serve the spiritual needs of Great Lakes seamen." More than a hundred years later, the 3,000-ton limestone building was dragged 880 feet on steel rails to its current location, a project that blocked Woodward Avenue for 21 days. The church was moved to make room for the creation of the Civic Center.

Interesting as all that is, the sign goes on to tell how the church was immortalized in 1975 when Gordon Lightfoot wrote his classic song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". Anybody who's ever heard the song probably remembers the line, "The church bell chimed 'til it rang 29 times..." It turns out, the "cathedral" to which Lightfoot was referring was none other than this old church sitting at the mouth of the Windsor Tunnel.