King Solomon Baptist Church in the Northwest Goldberg neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan is notable for its Tudor Revival-style sanctuary and its Art Deco-style auditorium. Originally built for Temple Baptist, a conservative, pro-segregationist church, it later became home to King Solomon Baptist Church.
Fourteenth Avenue Baptist
Fourteenth Avenue Baptist Church opened its new congregation at Fourteenth and Marquette streets in a Tudor Revival-style sanctuary. Designed by J. Will Wilson of Wilson & Catto,12 the building opened in May 1925.11
Temple Baptist Church
Services held by Rev. Llewellyn Brown on October 2, 1921, marked the rededication of Fourteenth Avenue Baptist asTemple Baptist Church.10
In 1934, Temple Baptist was on the search for a new pastor and Rev. J. Frank Norris of Fort Worth, Texas was selected. Norris was already the pastor of a very large congregation in the south and was proposed a novel solution: become pastor of both his Texas church and of Temple Baptist in Detroit.13
Reverend Norris was as much as a pastor as an entrepreneur. Before long, Temple Baptist in Detroit boasted 6,000 regular worshippers while his Fort Worth location had over 10,000.9 During the height of the Great Depression, Norris began the search for funding for larger quarters; the congregation donated heavily and in 1937, a 5,000-seat auditorium was completed.4 6
All worship services were moved to the auditorium while the church was renovated and enlarged to serve as a school. At the time, Temple Baptist boasted the world’s largest Sunday school with an enrollment of 5,400.9 A 2½-story addition was constructed in 1937, followed by a three-story addition in 1940.13
In March 1940, Temple Baptist planned a balcony to seat 800 additional worshippers.7 The need for space was so great that two additional buildings were being rented to accommodate everyone. Additionally, a marquee with neon lights was planned over the entrance. The new auditorium, balcony, and other sundries were dedicated on July 14, 1940.8
Temple Baptist purchased four acres on Grand River Boulevard between Monica and Prairie streets in November 1943.9 Present plans were to retain church facilities at its site on 14th Street, which at the time boasted the world’s largest Sunday school with an enrollment of 5,400, and construct a $10,000 auditorium at the new site.
Reverend Norris was a dedicated fundamentalist who voiced opinions regarding race relations and segregation on a weekly basis. 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.13 Reverend Norris endorsed the Ku Klux Klan and other similar organizations who routinely denied equal opportunities to black people; Norris similarly prohibited black people from entering Temple Baptist.1
Reverend Norris, towards the closure of the 1940’s, turned over some responsibilities to an assistant, Reverend G. Beauchamp Vick.13 Reverend Norris and Vick disagreed on numerous issues and in 1950, Reverend Vick replaced Reverend Norris as pastor for Temple Baptist. Reverend Vick, however, still held segregationist viewpoints and like Reverend Norris, barred black people from worshipping in the church.
By the middle of the century, the Northwest Goldberg had become more diverse. In response, Reverend Vick moved Temple Baptist to their Grand River Boulevard location in 1952.4 13 The new location had a sizable white population. After its Grand River Boulevard site became more diverse, Temple Baptist relocated once again to West Chicago Avenue near Telegraph Road.
In September 1985, the deacons of the church voted 29 to 7 to end the anti-black policy of the church, officially allowing people of other races membership. There was much resistance, and membership in the church declined by 90%.4
King Solomon Baptist Church
King Solomon Baptist Church was founded in 1926 and held its early worship services at 1551 Rivard Street.13 The congregation merged with Mount Nebo Baptist Church in 1927 and by the 1930’s, worship services were being held in a church at 9244 Delmar Street.
In 1944, King Solomon Baptist recruited Reverend Theodore Sylvester Boone, one of the most prominent black pastors in Texas.13 In 1951, the church purchased the former home of Temple Baptist at Fourteenth and Marquette streets after it was relocated out of the center of the city by urban renewal efforts.2 5 The auditorium was renovated to host the congregation while the basement of the circa 1920 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, a response to the I have a Dream speech of Dr. Martin Luther King, on November 10, 1963.13 Malcolm X called for major black leaders of the civil rights movement to stage a radical and violent “black revolution.”
King Solomon Baptist had signed another contract with Malcolm X prior to his Message for the Grassroots speech,13 but after criticism mounted against Malcolm X for the speech by black leaders nationwide, the church sought to block his second speech, The Ballot or the Bullet, from occurring. Malcolm X in response went to court to force the church to abide by its agreement. The courts agreed and his speech was given with less violent rhetoric; it was more widely praised by leaders from the civil rights movement.
Reverend Boone continued on as pastor of King Solomon Baptist until his death in 1973.13 Around 2010, the circa 1920 church was abandoned for lack of payment for water and electric service.
On March 22, 2011, the Detroit City Council designated King Solomon Baptist and another church within it a historic district.1 The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in April 2015.