From Farmland to Suburb
At the end of the 19th century, The Pointe – named for the point of land jutting out into Lake St. Clair – was farmland on the outskirts of Detroit, with summer cottages for wealthy Detroiters ranged along the lakeshore. Around the turn of the century, Detroit’s elite began to replace these humble cottages with “stately homes” while, at the same time, a boom in housing construction got underway inland. However, the Pointe’s transition from farmland to suburban bedroom community would take several decades. The Grosse Pointe Historical Society notes that as late as 1925 local law enforcement personnel were still chasing down wayward cows which occasionally intruded on the stately homes’ formal gardens!
After Prohibition was approved in 1918, The Pointe became a favored landing site for Canadian rum runners. They sometimes off-loaded their “import goods” at the docks of the above noted stately homes. Speakeasies sprang up to satisfy local interest in banned spirits. Even Prohibition Era violence intruded on the community, most notably
in a shootout in front of the local police station!
Commercial and housing development continued at a rapid pace during the 1920s and into the 1930s, despite the Great Depression. In 1921 five township schools combined to form a unified Grosse Pointe school district. In 1931 the Village of Lochmoor annexed adjacent land and, eight years later, changed its name to Grosse Pointe Woods. “The Woods” incorporated as a city in 1950.
Christ Church gives birth to St. Michael’s
The building moratorium during World War II set the stage for an impressive postwar building boom in what was now being called “the Pointes.” Local churches grew along with the community. Founded as a mission of Christ Church-Detroit, Christ Episcopal Church in Grosse Pointe Farms achieved parish status in 1947. That same year, responding to the influx of population, Christ Church founded its own mission chapel in “The Woods.” This became St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, with the parent congregation’s Assistant Rector, the Rev. Edgar H. Yeoman, as Vicar. (The term “vicar”, borrowed from the Church of England, refers to the priest in charge of a mission church.)
St. Michael’s first service was held on Sunday, October 26, 1947, in the old caddy house of the Renmore Golf Club. The building had been converted into an attractive chapel which the mission congregation used for four years. This early association with golf may explain the deep affection so many of our members have for The Game!
Growth of the congregation brought rapid change. The property where St. Michael’s now stands was a gift from Christ Church. Ground was broken in October 1950 for the new church and a small wing. Further additions to the physical plant came in 1954 and 1960.