Church of the Guardian Angel / New Greater Zion Hill Church

Church of the Guardian Angel was founded in 1927 when Father Leo Huver was tasked with building a new church at the center of a growing neighborhood on Detroit’s east side. A small rectory was completed in 1927. The first mass took place on August 28th, 1927 in a rented storefront with 40 parishioners in attendance. A few weeks later Guardian Angel parochial school opened in a temporary building next to the church site. Construction on a permanent school building along Hayes began in 1929.

The first sanctuary, a small rectangular building at the rear of the school that seated 500 was built in 1936, with additions in 1940 that increased the overall size to 925. A convent was added in 1950.

Ground was broken for the present-day church across the street in 1959, with Father Joseph Schuler digging the first hole from behind the controls of a huge steam shovel. Built at a cost of $900,000, the new sanctuary could hold 1,200 people at a time and was dedicated in 1960. The old sanctuary was converted into a gymnasium for the school.

At its peak Guardian Angel Parish had nearly 3,000 families, but by 1985 that number had fallen to 788. As the Archdiocese of Detroit contracted through the 1990’s 2000’s, maintaining the building became more difficult in the face of shrinking membership. When the parish was recommended for closure in 2006, the church only had around 50 to 60 regular members attending on Sundays.

New Greater Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church was founded in 1998 in Detroit’s Morningside neighborhood. After moving to another location on Mack and Conner, by 2007 the church had relocated to the Former Guardian Angel campus.

Greater Zion embarked on a modernization program, renovating the exterior and interior of the church in 2007 and 2009. But a series of events led to the relocation of the church in 2014, starting with the removal of copper from the roof over the sanctuary. The church described the loss of large sheets of copper as theft, part of a larger wave of scrapping that ripped through Detroit in the 2010’s, while former parishioners believe it was done intentionally to make some money. Blue tarps that were tacked onto the roof were no match for a severe storm that dumped over 4.5 inches of rain across the region in August of 2014, leading to significant flood damage. Sewage and water lines were ruptured and not repaired for weeks, causing the basement of the church to be submerged in water.

After Greater Zion left, eventually settling in the former St. Louis the King Catholic Church in 2016, the church was put up for sale. Most of the remaining copper was stolen around 2017, leading to severe deterioration of the sanctuary.