Public hearing June 25 for Murray Morgan church nomination

The City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing next week as part of its decision as to whether a 99-year-old church building (pictured) with a connection to the late historian Murray Morgan should be added to the city’s register of historic places.

In May, the Index first reported that Marshall McClintock, a local preservation activist, and Rev. Frances Lorenz, who leads the Center for Spiritual Living, were working on a nomination for the small, single-story Craftsman-style building at 206 North J Street.

According to information gathered by McClintock and Rev. Lorenz, whose 150 parishioners call the old church building their home, the late Murray Morgan — author of several books of Pacific Northwest history (most notably Skid Road, Puget’s Sound, and The Dam), and a prominent Tacoma native whose namesake bridge crosses Thea Foss Waterway — was a regular parishioner. Morgan’s father, Henry, was a minister at the church for 40 years. Murray Morgan’s wife, Rosa, taught Sunday school there. And Murray and Rosa married in the church.

“I think the motivation [for us to put it on the register] is that we regard the historic significance of this building,” Rev. Lorenz told the Index.

According to the nomination application, the church’s story begins in the early-1890s, on a site blocks away. In 1892, Charles B. Wright donated a parcel of land at what is today North I Street and Division Avenue, as well as $450 toward construction of a church, to Tacoma’s Universalist congregation. The Universalists built their church, which opened in 1894. But the congregation soon outgrew its building. In 1904, two developers wanted to purchase the church’s land in order to build a new grocery store. The sale allowed the congregation to purchase the site where the church sits today.

In 1912, Henry Morgan, Murray’s father, began a church minister in the building. During that time, the church changed its denomination to the Divine Science, and was renamed the Church of the Healing Christ.

The public hearing regarding the nomination will be held Weds., June 25 at 5:00 p.m. in the Tacoma Municipal Building North, 728 St. Helens, Room 16. Soon thereafter, the Landmarks Preservation Commission is expected to make a recommendation to Tacoma City Council as to whether the building should be added to the city’s register.


To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the historic Center for Spiritual Living building, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index and recipient of an award for Outstanding Achievement in Media from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for his work covering historic preservation in Tacoma and Pierce County. He has earned four awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including third-place honors for his feature article about the University of Washington’s Innocence Project; first-place honors for his feature article about Seattle’s bike messengers; third-place honors for his feature interview with Prison Legal News founder Paul Wright; and second-place honors for his feature article about whistle-blowers in Washington State. His work has also appeared in All About Jazz, City Arts Tacoma, Earshot Jazz, Homeland Security Today, Jazz Steps, Journal of the San Juans, Lynnwood-Mountlake Terrace Enterprise, Prison Legal News, Rain Taxi, Real Change, Seattle Business Monthly, Seattle magazine, Tablet, Washington CEO, Washington Law & Politics, and Washington Free Press. He is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. His journalism is collected online at