The Swedish Lutherans dedicated their first church in 1885 on the east side of Third Avenue, one lot north of Pike Street.

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NOW 130 YEARS OLD, the oldest Lutheran congregation in Seattle has moved only once, and that only eight blocks. It has, however, had four sanctuaries, and in Jean Sherrard’s recording we can see the latest of these with the first three floors (including one below ground level) serving the congregation and the top five affordable housing. Abutting to the right is the surviving chancel of the third sanctuary, which was dedicated in 1954. The prospect looks east across the intersection of Ninth Avenue and Stewart Street.

NOW: A cross high on the facade of Gethsemane Lutheran Church’s new home stands atop five floors of low-income housing and three for the church, including the Rainbow Chapel, the stained-glass lighted chapel at the corner. (Jean Sherrard)
NOW: A cross high on the facade of Gethsemane Lutheran Church’s new home stands atop five floors of low-income housing and three for the church, including the Rainbow Chapel, the stained-glass lighted chapel at the corner. (Jean Sherrard)

The Swedish Lutherans dedicated their first church in 1885 on the east side of Third Avenue, one lot north of Pike Street. It was the southern slope of Denny Hill and the neighborhood was then decidedly residential. By 1901, when the congregation moved those eight blocks to this corner, their first location was rapidly turning commercial, and the sale of that property helped finance the changes.

With its first and only move, the church avoided many years of confusion wrought by the Denny Hill regrade. It did not, however, escape the regrading of Stewart Street. In 1910 the city instructed the church to lower its Gothic sanctuary 14 feet.

The Stewart Street regrade put the growing congregation more emphatically on the map when the improved Stewart was linked to Eastlake Avenue, making a joined arterial that was one of the city’s primary routes to the north. The building in 1927 of the city’s Central Stage Terminal (Greyhound depot), across Ninth Avenue from the church, also emphasized the centrality of Gethsemane’s location.

The 1921 dedication of Gethsemane’s Lutheran Hospice for Girls on Capitol Hill prefigured Mary’s Place, the day shelter for women and children that is also a tenant of the new sanctuary. Other “open and affirming” Gethsemane services include the meals programs of Hope Center.

This photograph of Gethsemane’s second sanctuary was copied from an album of photos taken by Klaes Lindquist and shared with us by the Swedish Club. It dates from about 1920, a year in which the city directory lists 22 Lutheran churches.