(click to enlarge)
Many Seattle churches got started in the 1890s in what were then Seattle’s suburbs with help from their “mother churches.” For Fremont Baptist that was Seattle First Baptist. These Baptists of Fremont also got help from a railroad car.
The Evangel, a Baptist “Chapel Car,” arrived in the late winter of 1892 and was switched onto a spur near the Bryant Lumber Mill, Fremont’s big employer then. With 26 northend Baptists meeting on board, the church was organized on March 20.
The congregation’s first frame sanctuary overlooked Fremont from 36th Street, and its replacement, the brick church did too. It was built in 1924 – in eight months – and was distinguished by two big signs. First, in large block letters “Fremont Baptist” was painted on its exposed south façade facing Seattle, and in 1950 the roof began to glow with what the church history describes as a “large, dignified neon sign.”
Fremont Baptist was also distinguished by its music. Still neither the date nor most of the members of the church orchestra shown here are identified. An exception is the postman-cellist Jesse Willits, posing far right and three seats to his right (your left) his violinist wife Rowena, in white. In the “now” photo far right, Jesse and Rowena’s granddaughter Mary Allen holds in the place of her forebear’s cello a photo blow-up of the historical scene.
Next Sunday, May 17, from 2 to 5 p.m. Fremont Baptist and the Fremont Historical Society are co-sponsoring an Open House of the church at 717 N. 36th St. Tours and an exhibit of church and neighborhood photographs will be musically accompanied by the church’s Estey pipe organ, which started life as a theater organ in Bremerton.