Interstate 5 displaced the Central Church of Christ after just 8 years.
ON MAY 6, 1961, the Central Church of Christ was awarded $61,500 for its sanctuary and lot at the northeast corner of Boren Avenue and Pine Street. The jury’s award was $11,500 more than the $50,000 offered by the state’s highway department and $6,500 less than the church’s lawyers requested.
On Oct. 20, 1960, another jury had awarded $67,500 for the three lots on the northwest corner of the same intersection. The decision was only a little more than half of the $112,000 that owner Roy De Grief’s appraisers claimed the property was worth. A review of a few of the hundreds of other properties litigated for their involuntary conversions from home, business or institutional real estate into pavement and freeway landscape reveals that divergent evaluations between what was requested and what was given were commonplace during the construction of Interstate 5, or the Seattle Freeway, as it was first named.
The Church of Christ moved into the church with the tower on the corner of Boren and Pine late in 1952. Its members could not have known than that in eight years they would lose their sanctuary when the entire intersection was bought out by the state’s highway department for what the courts agreed was a public-works necessity: a north-south Seattle freeway.
It was the Seattle Swedish Methodists — aka Calvary Methodists — who built the church in 1906. Their long-serving pastor, Francis Ahnlund, was born in Norland, Sweden, in 1880, and immigrated to America in 1901. He answered the church’s call in 1919, moving from San Francisco to the Seattle congregation and preaching on this corner until 1951, when his health forced him to retire after 32 years of service. That longevity was a West Coast record for the Methodist-Protestant denomination. A year later, Ahnlund died at home.
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As was the practice of many congregations built by and around immigrant communities, Ahnlund regularly led services in English and in the language of the “old country,” which the older parishioners understandably found more comforting and inspiring. The two were often split between the morning and vesper services.
Francis and Isabel Ahnlund cultivated a family of faith and finesse. They had three daughters, two of whom, Sylvia and Norma, were adept organists who helped keep Calvary a “singing church.” Perhaps as something of a tribute to their father, two of the daughters also married preachers.
The church on the corner was built at a cost of $12,000, seated more than 500 souls and originally was topped by a steeple that extended high above the box tower. By the likely year of this tax photo, 1938, the steeple was gone.
The early 1960s cutting for the freeway here was deep. The difference in elevation between the sidewalk shown in the “Now” photo and the freeway pavement below it is 50 feet. The original street grade was somewhere in between the bridge and the ditch.