Paul Johnson, owner of New York City's Johnson Trading Gallery, purchased Woods Cathedral at auction last year for $6700. As we reported Monday, Mr. Johnson has been renovating Woods since this winter, with plans to make the building into artists' studios, event or display space. Curbed Detroit has exclusive images from the remodel of the 90-year-old building in progress. Johnson's investment is already paying off, and Curbed's photographs show that the building has tremendous potential.
Originally founded as Visitation Catholic Church, the 12th Avenue house of worship designed by Carey & Esselstyn served as a cathedral of the Church of God in Christ from 1986 to 2006, before falling into abandonment and disrepair. Johnson told Curbed that his decision to buy the building started with two Cranbrook-trained Detroit designers—Chris Schanck and Jack Craig—who had work for sale in his gallery. In 2012, with a Detroit purchase in mind, Johnson researched properties using online tools that show the entire city grid. Johnson made many trips to the city, spending time in different neighborhoods, before making the leap at the Wayne County tax auction in 2014.
To date, Johnson has put a new roof on the building, brought environmentals to code, completed a full clean out, put in a new drain system, and tells Curbed he is is continuing with the work of "scraping and painting, restoration."
Johnson is optimistic about Detroit and committed to taking part in the city's revitalization.
"We're hoping [Woods] can be a place to have some creative businesses or [for] people to do some interesting projects," he said. "But we are still a long ways away."