Much of the attention on development in Detroit has been downtown. But if you watch – there are things starting to happen in various places across the city. One of those is a renovation happening to an empty church across the street from Rose’s Fine Foods on Jefferson. This week we noticed the work being done on the roof and a new sign in front of the building, so we decided to stop in and get the story.


I talked to Chris Angel the President of Great Lakes Clean Water/US Clean Water Organization (GLCW) and he invited us to come by and take a tour of the former church and to tell us more about what the GLCW does.

The GLCW is an organization that focuses on collecting and destroying unused medications that pharmacies collect from the community. The goal is to keep people from flushing them down the toilet. There are only twenty-seven reverse distributers in the United States, and they are the only one that is a non-profit. Participating pharmacies have yellow jugs that are used to dispose of the unwanted medication, and once the jugs are filled they are collected by GLCW and incinerated.

The GLCW purchased the former church in order to move the headquarters from Alpena to Detroit.

The church was originally built as one of the first English speaking Lutheran Churches in Detroit in 1927. Over the years it changed denominations, and was eventually closed a few years ago.

church 1938 2

There is a lot of work to be done. The plan is to put in an office, storage for the yellow jugs, and a venue for fundraisers and educational classes.

Choir loft

The office will be in the choir loft and will overlook the whole venue. The goal is to finish the offices in two months.

View of venue space, and choir loft

The “H2O venue” is expected to be ready in six months, and available for rent to various community groups.

View from choir loft

Sometime during the 1970’s the church that owned the building did a lot of work. They installed a baptismal tub behind where the pulpit was. You can kind of see it in the above picture, there is a tiny bit of mint green peaking out. Instead of removing the tub they plan on covering it.

Window with exposed brick

The inside is also covered in wood tiles which will be removed over time. They plan on mixing the original materials with more modern materials like stainless steel and birch hardwood. They also plan on exposing the original brick work and beams in some places.

Exposed beams

In the basement they will store the empty yellow jugs. The jugs are used by pharmacies to collect unwanted and unused medications. There will be no drugs kept in the building, those go to a secure vault in Oscoda, Michigan.


The church is not overly ornate, however there are still a few really cool original touches left over from when it was built in 1927.

Doors to foyer

All of the doors are still in beautiful working order.

Door knobs

Most of the doors still have the original brass door knobs.


The majority of the windows are still in really good condition, with the exception of two that were damaged due to the leaking roof. They are currently looking for someone who works with leaded glass to have them repaired.

New Headquarters of Great Lakes Clean Water

GLCW made a documentary about the Yellow Jugs Old Drugs Program, it aired on PBS stations throughout the state in 2013 and 2014. It is about thirty minutes, but it really goes in depth of how medications can wreck havoc on our water and what the organization does to fix the problem.

The building is at 10624 East Jefferson, between Meadowbrook and Harding streets.

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