Now & Then
Swedish Baptist Church full of tradition in historic Seattle
WHEN SEATTLE became a boisterous boom town, especially after its Great Fire of 1889, the immigrant Euro-American communities that fed the growth rarely created neighborhoods of size that were clearly theirs.
WHEN SEATTLE became a boisterous boom town, especially after its Great Fire of 1889, the immigrant Euro-American communities that fed the growth rarely created neighborhoods of size that were clearly theirs. However, they could organize churches — and did.
The Swedish Baptists are an example. Organized as a mission in 1881 for a Seattle of about 5,000, the church was "instituted" in 1889 for a community of more than 30,000. A stately if typical frame sanctuary with soaring steeple was built on still-affordable land at Olive Way near Fifth Avenue. With land values ballooning 15 years later, the congregation moved five blocks east into this spectacularly towered church of pressed brick and stone at the northwest corner of Ninth Avenue and Pine Street.
At its dedication on July 16, 1905, addresses were given in both Swedish and English. Thirty years later, Dr. Emil Friburg announced to his congregation that Sunday-evening services would from then on be delivered in English only. The immigrants' children, of course, were not so disappointed. Raised in Seattle and its public schools, their principal language was English.
In 1970 the congregation sold its corner to the Vance Corp., which probably got a deal during the economic slump of the times. It has, I believe, been a parking lot ever since. The members and assets of the Swedish Baptist Church were absorbed into other Baptist congregations, as were at least a few Swedish traditions.
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