Photo of The Old Mariners' Church, in Detroit, Michigan

Weekly Gem #58 Tunnel? What tunnel?

Published 2/6/2016

Location:  This 'hidden gem' is on the east edge of Hart Plaza, in Detroit, MI (see Clue Me! Map).  This church has always been a haven for mariners, and was built for them. But the words "forever free" in its charter turned out to have a broader meaning than 'free pews.' For many years, the church had an underground railroad station in its basement. It was the last stop on the underground railroad line to Windsor, Canada.  

In reference to Weekly Gem #57, we described how slaves were picked up at the waterfront and ferried across the river at night. How did they get to the river without being seen? Many got there through a secret tunnel that ran several hundred feet from the church to the river. The underground railroad tunnel was rediscovered when the church was picked up and moved from its original location near the center of Hart Plaza to where it now rests.

You can walk the approximate route of a slave heading for freedom.

Option 1. In March or April, go to Atlanta. Walk to Detroit, traveling at night, resting during the day. When you get to Detroit, go to the spot where the Mariners' Church formerly stood. There is a large round monument to organized labor there now. You're now standing approximately where the underground railroad tunnel began.

Option 2. Find a more direct route to the original church location in Hart Plaza.

However you got here, you're here ... now walk to the underground railroad statue on the Riverwalk, but imagine you're taking that walk through a dirt tunnel, maybe with your friends and family who are also slaves, and you're walking the last little distance from slavery to freedom.

That would have been a special walk.


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


All sailors are welcome here


The Old Mariners' Church

Why It's Interesting

When this church was built, mariners passing through Detroit were often relegated to the rear of a church because they weren't 'members.' The Mariners' Church was built specifically so those sailors would always have a place to worship, and which was 'theirs,' so they could always have favored pews, front and center.