Tacoma City Council is expected to vote June 29 on a resolution to place the Central Lutheran Church building on the local register of historic places.
According to the nomination application, the two-story, L-shaped building, located at 401 Tacoma Avenue North, was constructed in 1957 by H. Halvorson, Inc. and designed by the architecture firm Lea, Pearson & Richards. The firm designed buildings for the National Bank of Washington in Parkland, Tacoma Savings & Loan Association, the Swasey Branch of the Tacoma Public Library, and the Kilworth Chapel at the University of Puget Sound.
The congregation formed in 1925 as part of the Norwegian Lutheran Church. Between 1925 and 1955, the congregation worshipped in an 1889 Victorian wooden church building, located at 1001 South G St. that was originally home to the First Presbyterian Church. In 1954, however, Pierce County ordered the church to vacate the building in order to construct the County-City Building. After a brief court battle, the county paid the church $150,000 to relocate. The congregation pledged $175,000 toward construction of the new church.
The nomination was prepared by historic preservation consultant Caroline T. Swope of Kingstree Studios at the request of the building’s owner. The building meets the following criteria for landmark eligibility: it is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of local history; it is associated with the lives of persons significant in Tacoma’s past; it embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or represents the work of a master, or possesses high artistic values, or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; and owing to its unique location or singular physical characteristics, it represents an established and familiar visual feature of the neighborhood or city.
A public hearing was held during the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s May 26 meeting. During that meeting, historic preservation activist Brett Santhuff testified in support of the nomination. He also noted that he is a member of the New Tacoma Neighborhood Council, a group that wrote a letter in support of the action. “We’re excited to see this go forward,” said Santhuff.
Church member Mark Redal also spoke in support of the nomination. “I’ve grown up in this church all my life,” said Redal. “[My father] was the pastor there for over 50 years. The church, as a group, is very pleased to send the nomination forward. We’ve enjoyed working with Caroline in kind of rediscovering some of our old history. We’ve always known we had a great building.”
On June 9, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the nomination and forwarded the recommendation to council.