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First United Methodist

Address: 811 Fifth Avenue
Date Built: 1910
Original Architect/Builder: James Schack and Daniel Huntington
Description: Beaux Arts stylereligious building clad in pressed brick and terra cotta

Building History and Significance:

First United Methodist Church postcard, 1915/Historic Seattle archives

First United Methodist Church postcard, 1915/Historic Seattle archives

Established in Seattle in 1855, First United Methodist Church hired architects James Schack and Daniel Huntington to design a new building for the congregation in 1906. Constructed between 1907 and 1910, the Beaux Arts style building was a response to rapid growth in Seattle’s population and the congregation’s membership. Due in part to the incremental loss of historic churches, in 1985 the First United Methodist Church Building was designated a Seattle Landmark against the objections of the congregation.

 

Preservation Issue:

In 1996 the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the involuntary Landmark designation of religious properties deprived congregations of their first amendment rights, thereby exempting First United Methodist from the controls placed on the property in 1985. The court’s decision, combined with changing membership demographics, prompted the congregation to begin exploring redevelopment options for their downtown church property. In 2003, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation listed the building as one of their annual “Most Endangered,” and in 2005, construction of a 33-story tower was approved for the site.

Current Status:

First United Methodist Church / Photo: Marissa Natkin

First United Methodist Church / Photo:

With the demolition of the church building seemingly imminent, a coalition of grassroots advocates and heritage organizations—including Historic Seattle—began searching for a creative solution to preserve the historic building, while accommodating the needs of the congregation. The solution came in the spring of 2007 when Kevin Daniels, president of Nitze-Stagen & Co., unveiled a proposal which would preserve the historic church building and allow for the development of a quarter-block office tower on the southern portion of the property. An experienced preservation developer, Daniels won wide praise from the preservation community for stepping up to save the last of Seattle’s great downtown religious structures. Daniels Development Co. voluntarily submitted a landmark nomination for the building; it was designated a Seattle Landmark in June of 2009. The former sanctuary now operates as the Daniels Recital Hall.

 

Additional Information:

First United Methodist Landmark Nomination (PDF)

Daniels Recital Hall Website

"Seattle's Historic First United Methodist Church goes from Sanctuary to Concert Venue”
Seattle Times, March 23, 2009

“A new angle on Seattle's skyline”
Seattle Times, February 11, 2008

“Deal preserves downtown church; congregation will move”
Seattle Times, May 30, 2007

Editorial, “Patience saved historic sanctuary”
Seattle Times, May 25, 2007

"Historic church sanctuary will remain"
Seattle Times, May 22, 2007

“February 2004: First Methodist and Preservation Case Law”
Preservation Seattle, February 2004

 

 

 

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