Third Church becomes a Century Corporation
On December 21, 2018, the State of Washington named Third Church of Christ, Scientist, Seattle, a Century Corporation "in recognition of its dedication and perseverance in maintaining corporate status for one hundred years." According to a letter from the Secretary of State, only 24 of nearly 3,500 corporations that filed in 1916 still exist. Besides Third Church, the list includes seven other Christian churches of various denominations across Washington State.
A brief history
The story behind the "new" Christian Science church in Seattle's University District exemplifies adaptive reuse of historically significant structures. Members of this Christian Science church spent the past 10 years remodeling a former carpet warehouse and showroom on The Ave into a church auditorium and Sunday School behind a Christian Science Reading Room storefront.
Two 100-year-old churches merge
Today's Third Church of Christ, Scientist, is a merger of two 100-year-old churches: Third and Seventh Churches of Christ, Scientist, Seattle. Dedication services were conducted in 1929 for the original Third Church edifice on the southeast corner of 17th Ave NE and NE 50th Street (Greek Row) and in 1941 for the original Seventh Church edifice on the corner of 8th Ave W and W Halladay Street (Queen Anne Hill). Those churches were built quickly but it took many years to pay off the debt, a requirement for dedicating a Christian Science church. This new church was never encumbered with debt, but the construction work happened in phases over a number of years. The Reading Room was completed first, followed by the Sunday School, the auditorium, the entryway tower, and finally a garden courtyard.
The quality and extent of the remodel was made possible by the merger of the two churches and the combining of financial and member resources. Third Church took a leap of faith in selling its previous edifice without knowing where it would go. Later that year the 50-year old Pitcher Brothers building became available for purchase. Meanwhile Seventh Church had placed its property on the market, and members were deciding where to go. Once Seventh Church found a buyer and merged with Third Church, all of the church members actively participated in the entire project. The architect Carolyn Geise was from Third Church. The general contractor Scott Davis was from Seventh Church. Two Sunday School students helped with design and construction work during summer internships.
In the news for adaptive reuse
Third and Seventh Churches were previously in the news when their buildings were no longer suited to their needs. Rather than the structures being demolished, both buildings were purchased by new owners who wished to conserve them. Third Church was featured in an article about shifts in Seattle's religious landscape in the May 2007 issue of Seattle Metropolitan Magazine when The City Church (now called Churchome) purchased it. Seventh Church was in the news due to issues surrounding reuse or demolition of its architecturally significant edifice, with articles in The Seattle Times, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Stranger, and The Queen Anne News. Seattle Church of Christ purchased that edifice in 2007.
Several events combined to establish the date of Third Church's November 18, 2018, dedication and centennial celebration: middle ground between incorporation dates of the two merged churches (Third in 1916 and Seventh in 1920) plus the recent debt-free completion of Third Church's new location on The Ave. The community is invited to join Third Church in anticipating Christianity's continuing vitality in the University District.