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Citadel of Faith Covenant Church (Temple Beth El)

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Temple Beth El
1922, Albert Kahn. 8801 Woodward Ave.

Established in 1850, Beth El was the first Jewish congregation to be organized in Michigan. In 1860 it adopted Reform practices and grew into one of the largest temples in the Midwest. The congregation built some of the most impressive, well-publicized, and influential religious buildings by leading architects. Their earlier home at 3424 Woodward Avenue, by Mason and Kahn, is now the Bonstelle Theater, with virtually no resemblance to its original usage. The theater was noteworthy not only for its classical architecture—the exterior was modeled on the Pantheon in Rome, the interior was rich with Louis XVI detailing—but for its flexible plan with movable partitions for overflow seating. Seating is arranged in a semicircle beneath a dome resting on squinches and, in turn, piers. In contrast to the Bonstelle, the church's facade retains much of the temple's character. It is an octastyle temple, the Ionic order of which is repeated in the interior. With its attic story and classical portico, it recalls the Lincoln Memorial in Washington and precedes Angell Hall on the University of Michigan campus. Kahn, whose reputation in the 1920s was based on his functional automobile factories, showed himself here to be the master of historical forms as well. The building is monumental in every sense: grand, imposing, dignified, and derived from a monumental classical concept. The congregation's intent to express patriotism, as well as religious values, is obvious. In 1974 the congregation moved to Bloomfield Township and sold the building to the Lighthouse Tabernacle. In 2008 the Reverend James Holley and the African American Little Rock Baptist Church bought Lighthouse Cathedral with plans to turn it into a performing arts center and school, but leases it to the Citadel of Faith Covenant Church.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert


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Kathryn Bishop Eckert, "Citadel of Faith Covenant Church (Temple Beth El)", [Detroit, Michigan], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Michigan

Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 96-97.

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