(click to enlarge photos)
There’s a popular and abiding Ballardian legend that when still young and independent of Seattle, the “shingle capitol of the world” had as many bars as churches – or, alternately, as many churches as bars. Most of the dives were on Ballard Avenue, but churches seemed to be on every Ballard block.
This week’s historical photograph was shared by Kristine Leander, the Executive Director of the local Swedish Club. It is but one print of about ninety included in a large album of subjects recorded mostly in the 1920s by Klaes Nordquist, a professional photographer with studios both downtown and on Market Street in Ballard. Many of the prints are of Swedish subjects, such as the Swedish Hospital, the Swedish Business Men’s Association posing at Snoqualmie Falls Lodge – with women – and this Baptist church.
When Director Leander and I first thumbed through the album I was startled by the size of this church and the sinking sense that in spite of having an enduring memory for churches, especially ones with soaring towers, and having bumped about Ballard for years, still I did not know it. However, the name came quickly with the help of magnification and Nordquist’s fine grain print. On the reader board to the right of the smaller door, far-right, the name, Ballard Swedish Baptist Church can be read.
When the tall church was going up (for $20,000) in 1910 on the northwest corner of 20th Avenue NW and NW 63rd Street, the “superstructure” was touted as the “second largest in the state of Washington.” While we may doubt that claim, we are still impressed. In addition to the hundred-foot tower, the sanctuary featured a 900-seat auditorium for the then 200 ambitious and hopeful members of a different congregation, the Second Baptist Church. The Swedish Baptists were meeting two blocks south in a modest timber church built in 1904 at NW 61st Street. Two years after Second Baptist’s dedication of their oversized sanctuary, the congregation was still struggling to pay the mortgage. In three years more they swapped this landmark, still with its tower intact, on 63rd with the flourishing Swedes on 61st. The Swedes , of course, also assumed the debt on the house of worship for which they traded.
In the mid-1920s the church’s tradition of scheduling the Swedish service on Sunday mornings and the English for the evenings was reversed. Of course, by then the church families were raising kids routinely using English in the public schools, and probably at home as well. According to Don Duncan, minister at Ballard Baptist since 1981, “Swedish” was excused from the name in 1934. By the memory of Alice Anderson, the oldest member of Ballard Baptist, the ornate top of the tower was removed after it was damaged in the earthquake of Nov. 12, 1939.
I’ll lead off by throwing down a couple of interior photos.
Then I’ll up the ante with a shot of the spare church on 61st!
Call, raise, or fold, fellahs?
Jean and Dear Readers. While the former – Jean, for himself and his family – is off to the Islands for a vacation, the latter – Ron and I, while holding to the mainland and working for the readers, will first put up eight or nine links to past Ballard subjects – Ballard and Phinney Ridge. Surely those are not all we have, even of those cozy in our scanned library. Like those in past blog features, these nine will proliferate with their own links and so on and on. We will follow these with a few features so distant (to the rear or ago) that until now they have not made it into this useful, that is scanned, library. All of it will be concluded first with a 1919 clipping of a few church alternatives, and last with a 2006 photograph of three members of the Ballard Sedentary Marching Band, standing in Meridian Park, ca. 2008, and so not in Ballard but rather here in Wallingford, the Gateway to Ballard. And that’s it.
FOUR MORE CHURCHES RELATED EITHER TO BALLARD OR SWEDES
BALLARD BRIDGE – FIRST AND LAST TRACK-BOUND TROLLEYS
One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Swedish Baptists in Ballard”
Here’s a short video on the church-for-ever-bar legend in Ballard: http://www.blackjarfollies.com/ballard/