The Congregation is a community-based café located in Detroit’s Boston-Edison neighborhood – the first of its kind in the re-emerging historic district. Originally built in the 1920s as St. James A.M.E. Church, the building stood dormant for many years before it was reconceived by the new owners. With support from local stakeholders, The Congregation is the result of a neighborhood coming together to take authorship in its built environment.
Our design strives to salvage the original details and celebrate the intrinsic qualities of this historic building while creating a nurturing environment for interaction. The missing, stained glass “rose window” was recreated in stainless steel from photos and original blueprints, and the service counter was placed on its centerline to make it the primary focus of the interior. At the opposite end of the space, the original Casavant Frere pipe organ serves as the backdrop for performances by local musicians and artists. The bar and service counter were custom fabricated from the original wood pews, creating scalloped undulations whose organic patterns play against the exposed brick walls. An eclectic mix of furniture creates a variety of seating pockets, offering countless vantage points to view the interior.
A new exterior patio created off the south façade is accessed via French doors inserted into the original window openings. Basked in southern sun exposure, the deck features stepped bleacher seating facing an expansive lawn used by the community for yoga and picnic tables alike. The patio also has a platform with banquette-style seating and a sculptural ramp that winds around the perimeter.