Michigan State Housing Development Authority
Lansing, MI – The State Historic Preservation Office, Michigan State Housing Development Authority, announced the National Park Service’s recent addition of the Norwegian Lutheran Church Complex near Leer in Alpena County, and the Norwayne Historic District in Westland, Wayne County, to the National Register of Historic Places, the nation’s list of historic sites worthy of being preserved.
The Norwegian Lutheran Church Complex, 10430 South Leer Road, Long Rapids Township (Leer) vicinity, Alpena County
The Norwegian Lutheran Church Complex was nominated by church members who sought to call attention to the complex’s historical significance, in particular its association with the early settlement of Long Rapids Township by Norwegian immigrants. The complex includes the Gothic Revival church, a two-story parish house located a short distance to the north of the church, and a cemetery, established in 1883.
The Norwegian Lutheran Church Complex has been the focal point of a Norwegian settlement at what became Leer in rural Long Rapids Township. The settlement began in 1878; the Lutheran church was established in 1882; and the present church site was obtained in 1883. The church building dates from 1899. Descendants of the area’s Norwegian Lutheran pioneers still compose a substantial part of Leer residents. The Norwegian Lutheran Church is also
significant as a vernacular example of churches constructed by German and Scandinavian Lutheran congregations in the later nineteenth century across Michigan, the Midwest, and beyond. The church is also significant for containing an altar painting by turn-of-the-century Norwegian-American artist, Sarah Kirkeberg Raugland, one of several artists well known to Norwegian-American congregations throughout the Upper Midwest for her religious art.
Norwayne Historic District, Generally bounded by Palmer, Wildwood, Glenwood and Merriman Roads and Wayne County Lower Rouge Parkway, the Cities of Westland and Wayne, Wayne County
The Norwayne Historic District comprises the World War II defense industry workers’ subdivision of Norwayne, with its schools and commercial buildings, located at the very southern edge of the city of Westland, twenty-five miles west of downtown Detroit. The district includes the properties developed for the original 1942 subdivision, which covers a total area of about 325 acres and is approximately one and one-half miles long by a maximum of five-eighths of a mile wide. The subdivision contains 1178 residential properties dating from 1942. The homes are single-family homes, duplexes, and four-unit buildings or “quads,” and the district’s historic buildings also include one church, two schools, a shopping plaza and one government structure.
Begun in 1942, Norwayne was developed by the federal government during World War II as a housing development for workers at the Ford Willow Run Bomber Plant and their families because of a shortage of nearby housing. The Ford Willow Run Bomber Plant was the site of production of the B-24 bomber during the duration of the war. The vast majority of the defense housing built for the Ford Willow Run Bomber Plant was temporary housing surrounding the plant in Ypsilanti. None of the temporary housing survives. In 1942 the construction of the Norwayne Housing Project began, developed by the Federal Housing Authority under the Federal Works Project at a cost of $12 million. The project was built as permanent housing for the workers at the Willow Run Bomber Plant, other nearby World War II factories, and the hospital known as Eloise (the Wayne County Poor House) in what was then known as Nankin Township – now the city of Westland. The project included around 1200 structures that held a total of 1,900 units of housing, two schools, a shopping complex consisting of ten stores, a fire station and an administration building. At its peak in 1945, the Norwayne Housing Project housed 5,000 families totaling almost 20,000 individuals. The last building constructed, Norwayne Community Church, was built in 1947, and it still stands today.
Residents of Norwayne pursued the nomination as a way to call attention to the significance of a modest neighborhood that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Historic sites are nominated to the national register by the State Historic Preservation Review Board, which considers nominations to the register three times per year. On behalf of the review board, the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) forwards nominations to the keeper of the National Register, National Park Service, U. S. Department of the Interior, for listing. Michigan has more than 1,600 listings in the National Register of Historic Places.
The SHPO coordinates the National Register Program in Michigan. For information on the National Register of Historic Places and other programs of the State Historic Preservation Office, visit www.michigan.gov/shpo or call 517-373-1630.