Hilltop's Swedish Mission Tabernacle now historic landmark

Tacoma City Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday that places the Swedish Mission Tabernacle building on the local register of historic places.

According to the nomination, the two-story, Beaux-Arts Neo-Classical building, located at 901 South 10th Street, was constructed in 1909 and designed by Frederick Heath and Lither Twichell. Heath designed more than 600 buildings in Tacoma, including Stadium Bowl adjacent to Stadium High School (earning him the nickname “Father of the Stadium”), Nereides Baths in Point Defiance Park, and the former Rhodes and Bon Marche department stores downtown. He also designed Paradise Inn at Mount Rainier National Park.

The nomination was prepared by historic preservation consultant and Historic Tacoma Board President Caroline T. Swope of Kingstree Studios at the request of the building’s owner. According to Swope, Historic Tacoma was approached by Reverend Gary L. Wyatt of Sure House Open Bible Church for assistance in preparing the nomination.

The Swedish Mission Tabernacle served its original congregation from 1909 to 1967, according to the nomination. In 1934, the congregation was renamed First Covenant. In 1954, the building underwent a major remodel that involved adding new oak pews, textured plaster wall coverings, and stained glass windows. “Vintage newspaper reports from the building’s construction mention the interior dome as skylit, but the dome has since been covered,” wrote Swope in the nomination. “The largest portion of the 1954 remodel was a one-story (with a full basement) addition to the west of the original sanctuary which held additional classroom space and a custodian apartment on the ground floor and additional classrooms and fellowship amenities, including a fireside room at the basement level.”

In 1967, First Covenant sold the building to Faith Temple and re-located to another part of Tacoma. In 1996, Sure House Open Bible Church purchased the building.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission conducted a preliminary review of the nomination on Oct. 12, and held a public hearing on Nov. 9.”This is a building I walk by early with my dog every morning and I am especially fond of this building for my Swedish heritage,” said Councilmember Lauren Walker during the council meeting Tuesday. “My mother is 100 percent Swedish and I just spent the weekend with a lot of my relatives in Longview and so it is near and dear to my heart.”

Councilmember David Boe, who called the building magnificent and unique to Tacoma, commended the congregation for request historic landmark status for its building.

“The tabernacle is rare in Tacoma,” said city historic preservation officer Reuben McKnight. He pointed to the Elks Building in downtown Tacoma as perhaps the only other well-known tabernacle on the city’s historic register.

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Hilltop’s Swedish Mission Tabernacle could become historic landmark (03/23/12) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2136072&more=0

Public hearing planned for Tacoma’s Swedish Mission Tabernacle historic register nomination (10/20/11) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2055635&more=0

Tacoma’s Swedish Mission Tabernacle nominated to historic register (10/07/11) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=2049182&more=0