There are four church buildings within the boundaries of northeast Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood from NE 75th to 95th Streets. Each congregation has had different locations, buildings and names over the years.
The names and the patterns of use of the church buildings in Wedgwood shows the changes in how churches have interacted with the community.
From Morningside to Wedgwood
The church with the longest history in the neighborhood is Wedgwood Presbyterian, which began as the Morningside Sunday School by or before 1915. At first it met in a residential area on NE 92nd Street in the Morningside Heights plat, one of the earliest developed housing areas where people began to live in Wedgwood. Then for more twenty years, from 1926 to about 1951, Morningside Sunday School met in a building at 9505 35th Ave NE, present site of the Northeast Veterinary Clinic.
During the 1920s Wedgwood residents thought that the intersection of NE 95th Street and 35th Avenue NE would develop into a major commercial center. That area was then called Maple Leaf or Morningside. There were some small stores at the intersection, but the businesses struggled and stayed small through the 1930s because of economic depression and the limitations on consumer goods during the 1940s war years.
After World War Two ended in 1945 the population of northeast Seattle grew rapidly and churches bulged with young families. The Morningside group decided to move, and they changed their name to Wedgwood Presbyterian Church when they completed a new, larger building in 1951 at their present site, 8008 35th Ave NE.
Wedgwood Presbyterian’s history at the corner of NE 80th Street has been continuous since 1951, with no more moves or name changes but the building has changed, having been enlarged and improved.
The original 1950 plans for the new Wedgwood Presbyterian Church building at 8008 35th Ave NE were filed by architects William J. Bain, Harrison J. Overturf and Edwin T. Turner. The 1957 addition to the building which added rooms on two levels, was by John Graham & Company.
The Wedgwood Presbyterian Church building has heavy use every week with its open-door policy of hosting community activities. Many different kinds of groups ranging from the Scouts to the Seattle Audubon Society use meeting rooms at Wedgwood Presbyterian Church for their activities and classes. Music recitals, weddings, funerals and community informational meetings are all held in this busy building.
Wedgwood Presbyterian also owns the Grassy Lot at the southeast corner of the intersection of NE 80th Street on 35th Ave NE. This open space is used for parking and has an area for enjoying the outdoors at a picnic table. The Scout Troop which is sponsored by the church has a compost area in one corner and they help to maintain the property. The open space is used by many groups during the year for outdoor meetings, garden sales and social activities.
From Log Cabin to Our Lady of the Lake
The church with the second-longest history in Wedgwood is Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church. OLL’s present address at 8900 35th Ave NE is its second site and its third building.
The church was founded in 1929 as the Chapel of St. Ignatius, on the west side of 35th Ave NE at about NE 81st Street, in a log cabin build by the previous landowner, Mr. Thorpe. The Chapel of St. Ignatius was not a parish but was informally served by Jesuit priests who traveled out from Seattle University to hold Mass on Sundays. This arrangement came into being because the Jesuits were considering moving Seattle University to the site.
By 1940 the Jesuits had decided not to move Seattle University out to what is now Wedgwood, and they sold the forty-acre property to Albert Balch, a developer. This tract, from NE 80th to 85th Streets, 30th to 35th Avenues NE, was platted by Balch for the original group of Wedgwood houses.
Because of the sale of the log-cabin chapel property, the Catholic Diocese arranged to buy another site and they started Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church at the corner of NE 89th Street in 1940. The first building, pictured at right, was designed by Pacific Northwest Modernist architect Paul Thiry.
The first Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church building at 8900 35th Ave NE had a very short life: it was torn down in 1960 to build the present, larger church structure. For this reason, even though Our Lady of the Lake is the second-oldest church congregation in Wedgwood with its 1929 founding date, its present building, completed in 1961, is one of the newest church structure in Wedgwood. The present building was designed by architect Roger J. Gotteland.
Our Lady of the Lake also has the newest addition to a church building in Wedgwood, the Jubilee Hall, which is a larger multipurpose social room.
From Green Lake to Wedgwood
The name of the Wedgwood Community Church at 8201 30th Ave NE reflects the modern trend of a name which does not mention affiliation with a denomination. The church does have a Baptist affiliation, and the congregation has had three locations and four different names.
The church started out as Green Lake Baptist in 1907, located on NE 72nd Street on the east side of Green Lake. When that building burned down in 1921, the congregation built at 901 NE 75th Street, a prominent brick building which today is still very visible, right next to the southbound on-ramp to Interstate 5.
In the 1950s the congregation, which had changed its name to Calvary Baptist, thought that their building would be in the path of construction of the Interstate 5 freeway, so they built anew at their present site in Wedgwood in 1955. Changing their name again because of the new location, the church was called Wedgwood Baptist until 1994, and is now the Wedgwood Community Church. This name reflects the desire to have neighborly outreach, and the church is known for its activities such as rummage sales with proceeds to help Seattle’s food banks.
From Maple Leaf to OneLife
In 1926 the Maple Leaf Elementary School was built on NE 100th Street at the corner of 32nd Ave NE. Across the street from the former school site is Maple Leaf Lutheran Church at 10005 32nd Ave NE. This Lutheran church is the only building which retains the old Maple Leaf neighborhood-name reference.
A church building which has had several name changes was originally called Maple Leaf Baptist at 3524 NE 95th Street, built in 1954. The building has hosted several different congregations. In 1972 the Brookhaven congregation came from 43rd & Brooklyn in the University District when they sold their building and merged with the Maple Leaf group. They brought their name with them, so that 3524 NE 95th Street became known as Brookhaven Baptist. In 1994 it was decided to change the name to Anchor Baptist as part of a revitalization effort. The new name was chosen from a Bible verse, “we have this hope as an anchor of the soul.” (Hebrews 6:19).
Ten years later, the Anchor Baptist Church decided to reorganize, and they moved away. After they moved out of 3524 NE 95th Street in 2004, the building was for sale. Two groups have used the building since then. The present congregation which bought the building in 2012 is called OneLife, affiliated with the Assemblies of God denomination.
The original architect of the Maple Leaf Baptist church building (plans filed in August 1953) was Alfred F. Simonson. In 2006 tenant improvements were undertaken by Scott Clark of Clark Design Group PLLC.
OneLife currently has outreach to young families with children, who are the most likely age group to attend church for the benefit of activities and associations with other families. The OneLife building hosts a preschool and a drama program.
Church interaction with the community in Wedgwood
While Our Lady of the Lake is the only Wedgwood church which has a school, all of the other churches in Wedgwood have many activities and they also host community groups which use their buildings. Church members in Wedgwood are involved in community activities such as Scouts and they are neighborhood activists in development issues and environmental concerns.
Church members find that the outworking of their faith in God is to act with Christian values in the community. Within the boundaries of Wedgwood between NE 75th to 95th Streets there are not any other publicly-accessible meeting rooms such as a library or community center, and the churches of Wedgwood have stepped into that role of service as meeting places.
Other nearby church buildings:
Another Wedgwood-area church, Messiah Lutheran at 7050 35th Ave NE also has a school, called Concordia Lutheran, in a separate building to the east at 7040 36th Ave NE.
The Messiah Lutheran church building was designed in 1965 by the architectural firm of Bell & Greve. James F. Bell was particularly noted for his architectural designs for churches. Another notable work of James F. Bell and Donald A. Greve was the Shoreline Library in 1966.
The history of University Unitarian Church at 6556 35th Ave NE (southeast corner of NE 68th Street) is told in another article on this blog, along with the origins of Congregation Beth Shalom at 6800 35th Ave NE.
The University Unitarian Church had acquired the building on the northeast corner of NE 68th Street for use as a social hall. The people of Beth Shalom began using it in 1970. In 1973 Congregation Beth Shalom bought the building and did a major remodelling to turn it into a synagogue. The design of the building for Congregation Beth Shalom was done by the architectural firm of Durham, Anderson and Freed which specializes in religious buildings.
In the 1950s when the University Unitarian Church first moved to its present location, they brought with them a group of young Jewish families who wanted to begin their own synagogue in the Wedgwood neighborhood. Today Temple Beth Am has their own building at 2632 NE 80th Street near the Picardo P-Patch. They were the first Jewish group to be nurtured by the University Unitarian Church, and Congregation Beth Shalom was the second.
University Unitarian Church was designed by well-known modernist architect Paul Hayden Kirk. In 2018-2019 the congregation moved out so that the building could have major upgrades, including renovation of the interior and an addition at the south end of the building.