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Fort Street Church Gets a New Slate Roof, 99 Years Later

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Photography by Chris and Michelle Gerard

Since opening in 1855, the Fort Street Presbyterian Church has gone through two devastating fires. The first fire, in 1867, destroyed the church so completely that the spire collapsed onto Fort Street.The church was rebuilt to its original specifications, but disaster struck again in 1914. A fire swept through the attic while the building was converting from gas lamps to electricity, destroying the entire roof.
So the church's roof was built for a third time, but this time the roof was clad with a light green slate. Ninety-nine years later, that slate--black with a century of Detroit's soot and grime--was finally replaced.
Replacing a slate roof with a shingle roof (especially on a church) would've been a very sad downgrade. When the old slate roof began leaking a few years ago, the church's supporters went through incredible lengths to raise the money needed for new slate--about $700K.

After years of fundraising, they made it. To replace the steeply-angled roof, the church hired Detroit Cornice and Slate, a company that's been around since 1888--nearly as long as the church itself. Working with the company, the church selected a color almost identical to the original: Never-Fading Green, which came from a quarry in Vermont. It's 3.2 times stronger than the old stuff, and could theoretically last for hundreds of years.