Forty years ago today, the Edmund Fitzgerald, an American Great Lakes freighter, sank during a storm on Lake Superior. The 1975 tragedy claimed the lives of all 29 crew members, a loss mourned in Detroit at the Mariners' Church. Today, the 1842 building still stands at Hart Plaza. Before Gordon Lightfoot made the place famous in his song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," the stone church already had quite a legendary past—it was a stop on the underground railroad, and in 1955, crews moved the entire 3000-ton structure to the other side of Hart Plaza, allowing construction of the Detroit Civic Center.
After the tragedy, Lightfoot's pop song made the church world-famous. "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" devotes one lyric to the Mariners' Church:
In a rustic old hall in Detroit they prayed,
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral.
The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Services to commemorate the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald took place Sunday, but other observances take place tonight, including the annual lost mariners remembrance ceremony at Belle Isle's Dossin Great Lakes Museum from 6-8 pm. Tickets to the portion of that memorial held indoors are sold out, but visitors are welcome to view the outdoor part of the event, including a Memorial Wreath Ceremony at 7:00 p.m. and an honor flotilla on the Detroit River.