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Union Church, 1854

Union Church, 1854 image

504 High Street

Union Church, 1854

This small brick structure appears on the 1854 map of Ann Arbor labeled simply as "Union Church." It apparently was not finished until 1857, for the Michigan Argus of December 25th of that year reported: "The Union Church has been completed by the Colored People of the City and is to be dedicated Sunday by Reverend J. M. Gregory. S. H. Estabrook will officiate." Although its simple classical lines are obscured by a later porch, the building serves as a fine example of the vernacular use of the Greek Revival idiom for non-residential purposes.

It continued to be used as a church into the 1870s, though by 1871 a split had occurred within the local African-American religious community. This resulted in the formation of two congregations: the African Baptist (later known as Second Baptist) and the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Both continue in operation today and trace their roots to this building on what was then known as Fuller Street.

By 1872, the AME congregation had begun to worship on the east side of Fourth Avenue between Summit Street and what is now Beakes Street. Although the Baptists continued to use the High Street Church until 1881, from 1883 until 1888 they have no listing in City Directories. In 1890 they reappear as the Second Baptist Church, worshipping in a building on the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Beakes Street.

In 1884 the High Street property was sold to Michael Kearns who converted it into a residence. When his widow Mary sold the property in 1907, more than 20 years later, it was still referred to in the deed as "the church lot," perpetuating the memory of its first use. It continues to be used as a residential property today.

Rights Held By
Photos used to illustrate Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, Michigan / by Marjorie Reade and Susan Wineberg.