King Solomon Baptist Church
King Solomon Baptist Church is a former church notable for its Tudor Revival-style sanctuary and Art Deco-style auditorium at Fourteenth and Marquette streets in the Northwest Goldberg neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan. It was built for Temple Baptist, a conservative, pro-segregationist church, it later became home to King Solomon Baptist Church.
Fourteenth Avenue Baptist Church opened its new congregation in a Tudor Revival-style sanctuary designed by J. Will Wilson of Wilson & Catto 12 in May 1925. 11 On October 2, 1921, Reb. Llewellyn Brown held services that marked the rededication of the sanctuary as Temple Baptist Church. 10
Temple Baptist was on the search for a new pastor by 1934 and Rev. J. Frank Norris of Fort Worth, Texas was selected. 13 As Norris was already the pastor of a very large congregation in Texas, he proposed a novel solution: become pastor of both his church in the south and of Temple Baptist in Detroit. Before long, Temple Baptist boasted 6,000 regular worshippers while his Fort Worth location claimed over 10,000. 9 Norris began the search for funding for a larger church during the height of the Great Depression and the congregation responded with substantial donations. In 1937, a 5,000-seat Art Deco-styled auditorium was completed. 4 6
All worship services were moved to the auditorium while the circa 1925 church was renovated and enlarged to serve as a school. Temple Baptist boasted the world’s largest Sunday school with an enrollment of 5,400 pupils. 9 A 2½-story addition was finished in 1937 followed by a three-story addition in 1940. 13
Temple Baptist planned for the construction of a balcony to seat 800 additional worshippers in March. 7 The need for space was so great that two additional buildings were being rented to accommodate the congregation. The new auditorium and balcony were dedicated on July 14. 8
Temple Baptist purchased four acres on Grand River Boulevard between Monica and Prairie streets in November 1943 with the plan to create a satellite church at the cost of $10,000. 9
Norris was a dedicated fundamentalist who voiced opinions regarding race relations and segregation routinely. He withdrew his Detroit and Fort Worth congregations from the Northern Baptist Conference and Southern Baptist Conference, deciding to establish the Premillennial Missionary Baptist Fellowship and then endorsed the Ku Klux Klan and organizations who routinely denied equal opportunities to African-Americans. 13 Norris similarly prohibited black people from entering Temple Baptist. 1
By the late 1940s, Norris began turning over some responsibilities of the church to an assistant, Rev. G. Beauchamp Vick, who was also racist and barred African-Americans from worshipping at Temple Baptist. 13 Norris and Vick disagreed on numerous issues and in 1950, Vick replaced Norris as the lead pastor for Temple Baptist.
By the 1950s, the Northwest Goldberg neighborhood had become more racially diverse, and in response, Vick relocated Temple Baptist to their more suburban Grand River Boulevard location in 1952. 4 13 After its Grand River Boulevard site became more racially mixed, Temple Baptist relocated once again to West Chicago Avenue and Telegraph Road.
The deacons of the church voted 29 to 7 to end the anti-black policy of the church in September 1985, officially allowing people of other races membership. There was much resistance and membership at Temple Baptist declined by 90%. 4
King Solomon Baptist Church
King Solomon Baptist Church was founded in 1926 at 1551 Rivard Street. 13 The congregation merged with Mount Nebo Baptist Church in 1927 and by the 1930s, worship services were being held in a church at 9244 Delmar Street.
King Solomon Baptist recruited Rev. Theodore Sylvester Boone, one of the most prominent black pastors in Texas, in 1944, 13 and it purchased the former home of Temple Baptist in 1951. 2 5 The auditorium was renovated to serve as the sanctuary while the basement of the circa 1925 church was turned into a youth activity center that included a boxing ring, roller skating rink, dance floor, and space for a choir.
The auditorium became a popular venue for influential black leaders and was where Malcolm X delivered Message for the Grassroots on November 10, 1963, a direct response to the I have a Dream speech of Dr. Martin Luther King. 13 Malcolm X called for major black leaders of the civil rights movement to stage a radical and violent “black revolution.” Although the church had signed another contract for Malcolm X to deliver another speech, criticism mounted by prominent civil rights leaders nationwide. The church refused to allow Malcolm X to deliver his second speech, The Ballot or the Bullet, in their sanctuary. In response, Malcolm X filed a lawsuit to force the church to abide by its agreement. While the courts agreed, Malcolm X had to amend the speech to feature less violent rhetoric.
The original circa 1920 church building was abandoned in 2010 over unpaid water and electric bills, although the congregation continued to meet in the circa 1937 auditorium. In March 2011, King Solomon Baptist was listed within a historic district, 1 and the church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in April 2015.