As his Catholic church changed leaders and locations, Father Prefontaine collected more honors.
WE CONTINUE last week’s feature about the friendly pioneer priest Father Francis Xavier Prefontaine and his Our Lady of Good Help parish. On Oct. 12, 1904, The Seattle Times published what was most likely the last contemporary photograph of the first Our Lady, although the caption (“Old Catholic Church is Being Torn Down”) was premature. The ladies of Our Lady held a one-day bazaar on Nov. 22 in the “parlors of the church,” where, in addition to serving a “hot home-cooked dinner,” they sold their own “fancy (needle) work … at moderate prices.”
The bazaar was a benefit for Our Lady, but which one? Certainly not for the little Lady first built by Prefontaine’s own hands at the northeast corner of Third Avenue and Washington Street in the late 1860s. That one was enlarged in 1882 for the growing congregation. The archdiocese, eager to build its new cathedral, sold the Our Lady corner lot to the Great Northern Railroad for construction of the south portal of its railroad tunnel beneath the city.
In 1904, a new and nearby Our Lady was planned for the southwest corner of Main Street and Fifth Avenue. However, a month before the benefit bazaar, the city’s building department discovered that James Stevens, architect of the new Our Lady, had drawn outside walls for the church that were higher than the 36 feet allowed by the fire code. Following the process of what the city’s inspector termed “wrestling with the problem,” the new Our Lady of Good Help wound up not on Main Street, but here, where it is photographed at the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and Jefferson Street.
A more comely version of the featured photo first appeared in The Times on May 13, 1905, with the headline, “New Church of Our Lady of Good Help Completed.” (The sizable power standard on the right was cropped.) The article also noted, “The new edifice will be opened tomorrow with a grand sacred concert … Right Rev. Bishop O’Dea will deliver an address of welcome. The church will be ready for service on Sunday, May 21.”
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By then, the two painters working at the corner beside the small gothic window with the curvilinear wooden tracery surely would have completed their brushwork. On June 16, The Times reported that Prefontaine was present for the silver anniversary of Holy Names Academy, noting that he “made a brief address,” for he had “aided in founding the school in 1880.”
Most of his remaining years were spent with his niece Miss Marie Pauze, and her piano, in their home overlooking Volunteer Park. She later recalled that when the archdiocese moved from Vancouver, B.C., to Seattle in 1903, the original Our Lady of Good Help at Third and Washington was used for three years as a procathedral while St. James was being built on First Hill. “My uncle didn’t want to leave, but he was the little dog, as we say. He wouldn’t fight; he simply quit.”
Father Prefontaine died in the spring of 1909 of “heart trouble,” a few months after Pope Pius X made him a Monsignor and five years after Seattle’s mayor R.A. Ballinger named Prefontaine Place for him on Christmas Day 1904.