Seattle Landmarks: Church of the Immaculate Conception (1904)

  • By Dave Wilma
  • Posted 4/19/2001
  • Essay 3220
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Address: 820 18th Avenue, Seattle. The Church of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1904, is the oldest standing Catholic Church in Seattle. Jesuit priests founded the Church and School of the Immaculate Conception in 1891. The school later became Seattle College and after that, Seattle University. The Jesuits also founded Sacred Heart parish on Queen Anne Hill and St. Alphonsus parish in Ballard at that same time. The original home of Immaculate Conception was built in 1893 at Broadway and Marion Streets.

In 1904, the new church was dedicated and parishioners were under the care of the Jesuit fathers. In 1929, diocesan priests assumed the pastoral duties so that the Jesuits could devote their energies to education.

The Italianate structure was designed by Williams and Clark and built of brick. The roof and twin towers were of wood and are capped by gold cupolas. There were slender Romanesque windows and a rose window, all of stained glass. Inside, frescos painted by the Jesuits adorned the ceiling. The wood communion rail, pulpit, and altar were carved by hand. The 22 statues are from the period 1890-1020.

Originally, the parish served families of the wealthy neighborhood of First Hill. The seating capacity of 950 made it the largest assembly hall in Seattle at the time. As the neighborhood changed, it served an ethnically diverse population of the inner city.

On January 10, 1977, the Seattle City Council designated Immaculate Conception a Seattle Landmark because of its significance in the development of the city, because it exemplified the heritage of the community, and because of its distinctive architectural style.

The church was damaged by a fire in 1982 and restoration was handled by Bumgardner Architects.

Sources: Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Landmarks Preservation Board, 700 Third Avenue, 4th Floor, Seattle, Washington; Lawrence Kreisman, Made to Last: Historic Preservation in Seattle and King County, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999), 60; "Seattle's Immaculate Conception 85 yrs. old," Northwest Progress, December 3, 1976.

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