A new life for endangered historic church

Historic Tacoma announced Monday it has removed the former Trinity United Methodist Church building from its Watch List of vulnerable historic properties.

The building, located at 601 E. 35th St., was designed by the architecture frim Heath & Gove and built between 1913 and 1915. It was on Historic Tacoma’s Watch List due to its deteriorated and vacant condition. The Trinity congregation disbanded in late 2007 and the structure became the responsibility of the United Methodist judicatory/Pacific NW Conference. The building was vandalized in July 2008. Both Historic Tacoma and neighborhood residents expressed concern and attended a walk-through and discussion on the future of the building early last fall.

Since then, Calvary United Methodist Church, a growing southside Samoan congregation, has been working with the Conference to rehabilitate the structure. “Through a significant committment of time and labor on the part of the congregation and financial support from the Conference, a successful rehabilitation was just completed,” said Historic Tacoma representatives in a statement.

The church was reconsecrated and dedicated as Kalevaria United Methodist Church on March 28, 2009. “Historic Tacoma was there and can report a stunning rehab, a vibrant congregation, and another successful step in the revitalization of a historic neighborhood,” added Historic Tacoma representatives in a statement.

In 1914, the Tacoma Daily Ledger noted, “The new church is one of the prettiest in Tacoma, commanding an excellent location and being well adapted to expansion at any time.” Trinity Methodist Church grew out of a merger between the Fowler Methodist Church and the McKinley Park Church. Fowler Church was organized in 1889 with Rev. B.F. Brooks, and McKinley Church was a ‘daughter’ church of Fowler that first started as a mission Sunday school and later organized as a church. The church was formally dedicated on Jan. 10, 1915; programs throughout that week featured banquets, musical, literary programs, and speakers. In 1923, the McKinley Hill Community Building was erected at the rear of the church by Trinity Methodist Church and the McKinley Hill Improvement Club. This frame construction housed a 60′ x 30′ gym with adjoining shower and locker rooms and several spacious clubrooms. This provided daily activities and community building for the McKinley area young people.

The brick and terra cotta church with parapet bell tower is located near the McKinley Business District. The interior woodwork is a stained natural fir and showcases a vaulted ceiling. Two memorial windows were installed from the old Fowler Church building. One commemorates the father of Governor Ernest Lister and Alfred Lister, Secretary of the School Board, and the other Jeremiah Lister and his wife.

According to Historic Tacoma, McKinley Hill began to develop after 1904 when the Northern Pacific Beneficiary Association Hospital was built and when streetcar transportation was extended to southeast Tacoma. Development proceeded in pace with the extension of the streetcar line. Further development was stimulated by the Tacoma and Eastern Railroad depot and freight facility at S. 64th St. and McKinley Ave. The line was the major rail route to Mt. Rainier before popular use of the auto.

The property is the first to be removed from Historic Tacoma’s Watch List. For more information, visit http://www.historictacoma.net/ht/watch_list/ .