City Council vote could make former church building a Tacoma landmark

A former church building in Tacoma dating back nearly 90 years could be added to the City of Tacoma’s Register of Historic Places this month.

In October, the Tacoma Daily Index reported Tacoma Musical Playhouse (TMP) had recently purchased the Epworth LeSourd Methodist Episcopal Church building, located at 710 S. Anderson St., in Central Tacoma with plans to use it as a performance venue known as The Spire (see “Tacoma Musical Playhouse purchases, seeks landmark status for shuttered historic church,” Tacoma Daily Index, Oct. 8, 2015; and “Tacoma Daily Index Top Stories — October 2015,” Tacoma Daily Index, Nov. 2, 2015). The structure was built in 1926 and served its congregation (which dated back to 1889) until this summer, when a final service was held and the building was put up for sale due to the high cost to maintain the building, as well as a decline in membership.

The former church building features stained glass windows depicting biblical imagery and a 1.5-story steeple, according to the landmark nomination prepared by TMP Music Director Jeffrey Stvrtecky and TMP Artistic Director Jon Douglas Rake. The church, which could seat 450 parishioners, became known as the ‘Chapel of the Chimes’ when bells were added in 1944.

The Gothic Revival building was designed by architect George W. Bullard, who also designed other landmark Tacoma buildings, including the C.N. Gardener Building (built in 1907, located at 928-930 Broadway Plaza); Hunt-Mottet Warehouse (built in 1907, located at 2109 S. C St.); Provident Building (built in 1903, located at 917 Pacific Ave.), Tacoma Buddhist Church (built in 1931, located at 1717 S. Fawcett Ave.); Tacoma Nash Sales Company Building (built in 1921, located at 933 Market St.); Webster Apartment Building (built in 1904, located at 629 St. Helens Ave.); and the YMCA Building (built in 1909, located at 714 Market St.).

Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission reviewed the landmark nomination during a public meeting in October.

“We have been searching for a second venue for quite some time,” Stvrtecky told the Tacoma Daily Index in October. “The founders of TMP have immense respect for historic architecture. While we intend to primarily use the building as a rehearsal and performing venue, we have no intention of destroying any of the historical elements of the building’s rich architectural past. It is only fitting that we nominate The Spire to Tacoma’s Register of Historic Places to preserve its place in the history of ecclesiastical buildings of the early 20th century of Tacoma.”

Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing regarding the landmark nomination in November (see “Public hearing Nov. 18 for proposed landmark Tacoma church,” Tacoma Daily Index, Nov. 17, 2015).

Tacoma City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution to add the Epworth LeSourd Methodist Episcopal Church building to the City of Tacoma’s Register of Historic Places during a public meeting at 5 p.m. on Tues., Dec. 8, at Tacoma City Hall. Copies of the agenda, resolution, staff memo, and map are available online here and here and here and here, respectively.

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the Epworth LeSourd Methodist Episcopal Church landmark nomination, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index, an award-winning journalist, and the author of several books. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.