Seattle Now & Then: The Church on the Corner (of Boren & Pine)

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: In 1938, the likely year of this tax photo, the First Swedish Methodist Church at the north east corner of Boren Avenue and Pine Street was one of several Protestant congregations in the greater Cascade Neighborhood that were built around Scandenavian immigrant communities. (Courtesy Stan Unger)
NOW: Of the ten overpasses between downtown and the First Hill-Capitol Hill area this is the only site where two streets, Boren and Pine, intersect directly above the I-5 freeway.
A Times clip from May 5, 1961

On May 6, 1961, the Central Church of Christ was awarded $61,500 for their sanctuary and its lot at the northeast corner of Boren Avenue and Pine Street.  The jury’s award was $11,000 more than the $50,000 offered by the state’s highway department and $6,500 less than the church’s lawyers requested.

The Swedish Methodist’s frame church at the northeast corner of Boren Avenue and Pine Street survives in this pre-freeway aerial of the neighborhood. It appears right-of-center near the top.

Earlier, on October 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 they were 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 the Seattle Freeway, as it was first named.

A Seattle Times clipping from Nov. 6, 1952

The Church of Christ moved into the church with the truncated 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 Methodist – who built the church

Times clipping: April 14, 1906

in 1905. 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 record for the Methodist-Protestant denomination. A year later Ahnlund died at home.

A Times clip from July 5, 1924
A Times clip from ca. 1935.

As was the practice of many congregations built by and around immigrant communities, Ahnlund regularly led services in both English and the language of the ‘old country,’ which the older parishioners understandably found both more comforting and inspiring.  The two were often split between the morning and vesper services.

Seattle Times clipping from October 9, 1937

Francis and Elizabeth Ahnlund cultivated a family of both 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.

Seattle Times – Sept. 17, 1938
Times Obituary for Francis Ahnlund, March 12, 1952

The Church on the corner was built in 1905-06 at a cost of $12,000, seated more than 500 persons, and was originally topped by a steeple that extended high above the box tower.  By the likely year of this tax photo, 1938, the steeple was gone.  It was, of course, not removed by the earthquake of November 12, 1939. The early 1960s cutting of the Freeway here was deep. The difference in elevation between the sidewalk shown in the “now” and the freeway pavement below it is fifty feet. The original street grade was somewhere in between the bridge and the ditch.

Aerial of the I-5 construction by Roger Dudley.
Lawton Gowey
A clip from The Seattle Times, August 5, 1962.
A detail from the Dudley aerial (shown above) with the intersection of Pine St and Boren Avenue standing above the freeway about one-fourth of the way down from the top of the subject.  The church, of course, is long gone, but its neighbor west on Boren, the Olive Tower, stands upper-left. The long 8th Avenue overpass between Seneca and Pike Streets appears, in part, near the bottom.  It is on my once-upon-a-time oft-used shortcut thru downtown.  


Anything to add, guys?  More neighborhood features Jean.  As our Web Master,  Ron and I are hoping you do not tire of our weekly clutters.

THEN: Swedish Lutheran (Gethsemane) Church’s second sanctuary at the northeast corner of Ninth Avenue and Steward Street circa 1920, photo by Klaes Lindquist. (Courtesy, Swedish Club)

THEN: Beginning with the Reynolds, three hotels have taken tenancy in this ornate three-story brick block at the northeast corner of Boren Avenue and Pike Street. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: Built quickly in the winter of 1906-07, the Prince Rupert Hotel faced Boren Avenue from the third lot north of Pike Street. About fifty-five years later it was razed for the I-5 Freeway. (Courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: The Ballard Public Library in 1903-4, and here the Swedish Baptist Church at 9th and Pine, 1904-5, were architect Henderson Ryan’s first large contracts after the 20 year old southerner first reached Seattle in 1898. Later he would also design both the Liberty and Neptune Theatres, the latter still projecting films in the University District. (Photo courtesy Lawton Gowey)

THEN: The now century-old Norway Hall at the corner of Boren Avenue and Virginia Street opened in 1915, on May 17, Norwegian Independence Day. (Courtesy, Nordic Heritage Museum)

THEN: In the 32 years between Frank Shaw's dedication picture and Jean Sherrard's dance scene, Freeway Park has gained in verdure what it has lost in human use.

THEN: We give this panorama from the roof of the Washington Athletic Club a circa date of 1961, the year that Horizon House, a First Hill retirement community, first opened its doors to residents at Ninth Avenue and University Street. The high-rise L-shaped Horizon stands top-center. (Lawton Gowey)

THEN: The scene looks north through a skyline of steeples toward the Cascade neighborhood and Lake Union, ca. 1923.

THEN: As explained in the accompanying story the cut corner in this search-lighted photo of the “first-nighters” lined up for the March 1, 1928 opening of the Seattle Theatre at 9th and Pine was intended. Courtesy Ron Phillips

THEN: Looking east on University Street towards Ninth Avenue, ca. 1925, with the Normandie Apartments on the left.

THEN: The brand new N&K Packard dealership at Belmont and Pike in 1909. Thanks to both antique car expert Fred Cruger for identifying as Packards the cars on show here, and to collector Ron Edge for finding them listed at this corner in a 1909 Post-Intelligencer. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry.)

THEN: Built in 1909-10 on one of First Hill’s steepest slopes, the dark brick Normandie Apartments' three wings, when seen from the sky, resemble a bird in flight. (Lawton Gowey)


THEN: Built in 1888-89 at the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Pine Street, the then named Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church marked the southeast corner of Denny Hill. Eventually the lower land to the east of the church (here behind it) would be filled, in part, with hill dirt scraped and eroded from North Seattle lots to the north and west of this corner. (Courtesy, Denny Park Lutheran Church)

THEN: Revelers pose on the Masonic Temple stage for “A Night in Old Alexandria,” the Seattle Fine Art Societies annual costume ball for 1921. (Pic courtesy of Arthur “Link” Lingenbrink)


THEN: While visiting Seattle for some promoting, silent film star Wallace Reid shares the sidewalk at 4th and Olive with a borrowed Stutz Bearcat. (Courtesy, Museum of History & Industry)

THEN: Built in the mid-1880s at 1522 7th Avenue, the Anthony family home was part of a building boom developing this north end neighborhood then into a community of clapboards. Here 70 years later it is the lone survivor. (Photo by Robert O. Shaw)

THEN: We give this panorama from the roof of the Washington Athletic Club a circa date of 1961, the year that Horizon House, a First Hill retirement community, first opened its doors to residents at Ninth Avenue and University Street. The high-rise L-shaped Horizon stands top-center. (Lawton Gowey)




First appeared in Pacific, November 28, 1992.














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