More than 100 years ago, hundreds of thousands of immigrants came to Detroit, the melting pot of America. Migration to Detroit, Hamtramck, Highland Park, and Wayne County more than doubled population from 1910-20.
Credit: U.S Census
According to the book All Our Yesterdays, A Brief History of Detroit by Frank B. Woodford, and Arthur M. Woodford, “There were Ukrainians and other European groups in Hamtramck and Detroit’s upper East Side, such as Poles, Slovaks, Czechs, Romanians, Bulgarians, Croatians, Finns, Serbs, Swiss and Lithuanians. The Ukrainians were by far the largest of these groups however, numbering about 100,000 around the time (1914) of Henry Ford’s $5 workday announcement.”
Many workers earned enough money to memorialize their previous cultures in architecture that carried on cultural crafts and traditions to re-establish their lives and new families.
The building was originally called the Lombardi Hall [Lombardy is a region of Italy] and was built on McDougall Street in 1927 surrounded by big two flat housing.
At some point, its upper space became Marracci Temple #13 of the Prince Hall Shrinedom, a Masonic order.
I love the gloves in this well-lit group photo. In the 1980s, The Marracci Temple relocated to northern Detroit and went bankrupt. The original Lombardi Hall site burned on November 30, 2022.
In the 1890s Detroit was growing rapidly. A rectangle of residential land on the west side of Detroit between Tillman Street and 24th and fronting on the 3000 block of Michigan Avenue housed a wide selection of the melting pot ingredients . In 1917 a small Lithuanian Hall occupied 3417 Michigan.
In 1921, the Lithuanians moved south on 24th Street. A much larger Lithuanian Hall was built at 3564 W. Vernor Street near St. Anthony’s Lithuanian Parish (1920-2013).
One block North on Tillman and Michigan Avenue sits the Bohemian National Home, (or Cesky Norodni Dum, as is written in stone on the front of the building) was built in 1914 by a group called the Bohemian Society. Down the street, on the next corner stands a grand tower.
The Protestant German community built the “Deutsche Bschoefliche Methodistenkirche” (German Methodist Episcopal Church) in 1898 on the corner of the 3000 block of 24th Street.
Earlier in the decade, just North of the German tower on 24th Street, sat the St. Casimir Church complex.
Built in 1890, this stunning church was modeled after the cathedral of Pisa, with a huge central dome 170 feet high. St. Casimir Catholic parish was named after the 15th- century patron saint of Poland, who was both a Polish prince and the king of Hungary. The parish was started in 1882 as an offshoot of St. Albertus on the city’s east side.
Citing high upkeep and repair costs and a dwindling congregation, the Archdiocese decided to demolish the historic church, leaving the sch0ol and Rectory. It built a smaller one in 1961, one that will have little roof maintenance. Credit : HistoricDetroit.org
Even the more cost-efficient church couldn’t stop the shrinking number of parishioners and was closed in June 1989. The building was sold to another congregation – Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church.
Commonly known as “Finn Hall,” the building at 5669 14th Street was designed by local Finnish architect John Kasurin and erected by the Finnish Workers Society in 1923.
According to Michael M. Loukinen’s book, “Second Generation Finnish American Migration from Northwoods to Detroit, 1920-1950,” Detroit’s “Finn Town” boasted a rich array of Finnish cultural institutions that flourished from 1920-1950. Now it boasts of a lot of developable Finn-Land.
Another Scandinavian Hall, The Danish Brotherhood Hall, still stands at 1975 W. Forest. The older photo, from DetroitHistoric.org, demonstrates the density of retail that serviced the local community. (c 1950)
The Hall has a new roof and is now under significant, albeit slow, rehabilitation.
The Poles were the largest and one of earliest immigrant group to build elaborate halls. In 1912 Dom Polski [Polish House] was built at 2881 E. Forest and is currently owned by a church.
An additional grand Dom Polski Hall sits, bleakly now, at 3426 Junction serving the west side. Built in two stages, in 1916-17 and 1925, the building was designed by one of Detroit’s Polish-born architects, Joseph Julius Gwizdowski. He is best known for designing Polish churches, municipal buildings, and cultural institutions in Detroit and other American cities.
The westside Dom Polski had an auditorium with galleries, a seating capacity of approximately 1,000, a fully equipped stage, and office quarters. The rear portion of the building, consisting of three levels of office space, was dedicated on July 5, 1917. The remainder of the magnificent structure was completed on September 15, 1925. For decades, it was considered the pride of Junction Avenue.
The 1926 Polish Legion Hall (slowww renovation ) at 8444 Michigan served Poles on the city’s west side.
A newer structure is the Polish League of American Veterans (PLAV) Post 10 in Hamtramck.
The City of Hamtramck (the city within the City of Detroit known as “The World in Two Square Miles”) has always been an immigrant destination. The Bosnian American Islamic Center at 3407 Caniff was previously known as the Serbian American Center.
You’ll find the Ukrainian Workers Home at 2965 Carpenter in Hamtramck.
The Ukrainian American Museum Library was built in 1958 at 11756 Charest Street. Tho not a hall it continues to be a center of community. It is common now to see solidarity flags for Ukraine flying from two-flat housing in the vicinity.
The Jewish communities from Germany and Poland established the Yeshiva Beth Yehudah Hall at 2565 Elmhurst, now occupied by the Williams Missionary Baptist Church
Just east of the Detroit Institute of Arts, at 609 Kirby, sits a second Jewish building – the Tushiyah United Hebrew School built in 1922 and the first B’nai B’rith Community Center. I once interviewed a woman whose grandfather was the revered and famous Rabbi Levin who lived one block North on W. Ferry Street. Ten thousand people attended his funeral. She often walked to Hebrew School after public school classes and would stop at the Detroit Institute of Arts to watch the production of the Diego Rivera murals.
The Serbian community is well placed on a large tract of land at 19940 Van Dyke. American Serbian Hall backs up to the stunning St. Lazarus Serbian Orthodox Church.
Farther north, at 24166 Van Dyke, sits the Balkan Hall, featuring Club Sweat Teen Dance Club.
At the center of the Chaldean Christian neighborhood was the Chaldean Catholic Church at 300 W. 7 Mile and John R Street.
“The Deutsches Haus is the most spectacular of Detroit’s old ethnic halls. Built in 1926 at 8200 Mack Avenue, its grandeur represents the influence and wealth of Detroit’s German community in the 1920s. The Haus has a 1,600-person auditorium, meeting rooms and even a bowling alley. The three-story building cost about $750,000 to build, the equivalent of some $10 million today”. Credit: DetroitHistorical.org
The building is now the Greater Macedonia Baptist Church.
An additional barren stand-alone location is the Slovak Hall, dated 1921, at 7200 Strong Street and Frontenac Street. “It was perfectly situated near the cradle of the auto industry … Packard, Dodge, Eldon Gear and Axle and many more heavy industries.” Credit: nailhed.com
Both the Gaelic League, 2668 Michigan and the Maltese Benevolent Society, 1832 Michigan, were close to their roots in the Corktown community along the primary transportation route Michigan Avenue.
“The Hall at 4656 Canton was built in the 1910s and hosted events through the 1920s. At some point in the 1930s the building became Swiss Hall. It has continued to evolve.” Credit: Eric Hergenreder eherg.com
Originally the Fortschritts Bund Hall of the German-Hungarian Progressive Association, at 3003 Elmwood, The City Singing Association promoted musical activities that were part of the culture of every immigrant group.
Throughout Detroit you can still trace various immigrant groups by their ethnic halls. There are not a lot of these buildings left standing. Any functioning ethnic “banquet” halls are more readily found nowadays in the suburbs and Detroit’s East Side.
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