Gloria Dei Lutheran first site

Location: Southwest corner Adams and 5th
Religious institutions, Women’s history; Diversity:  Scandinavians

Gloria Dei Lutheran, 1949, Courtesy of Gloria Dei Lutheran churchFormer site of Gloria Dei Lutheran today (2013)photo by Matt Kennelly

Astute visitors to this website may recognize the building at above left as the original First Presbyterian Church building. This building was one of the participants in what may be called the game of “musical pews” in Olympia that continues to evolve today with a number of local faith communities. The game begins with a small church meeting in an existing building – a tavern, cooper’s shop, community hall. As it grows, it decides to erect a purpose-built structure (many early churches were located just southeast of downtown). It then either continues to outgrow its building, typically  moving to an outlying residential neighborhood; or it folds up shop. This creates a problem: most churches are suitable only for that purpose. The structures then have three fates: they are moved to a new location, another congregation begins worshipping in the building at the same location, or the building is torn down.

The Gloria Dei Lutheran church began as a church that catered to the growing Swedish population of Olympia and indeed its first name was the Swedish Lutheran Church. Founded by a group of Swedish/Finnish women in 1905, the church soon found itself wanting a structure. At the time, First Presbyterian was about to build its fine new brick building, so the church purchased the building and moved it to the southwest corner of Fifth and Adams. Gloria Dei continued to grow and  in 1950 broke ground and soon moved into its current location in West Olympia. The “musical pews” continued when the Salvation Army moved into the building in 1953. This was the last recorded use of this venerable building, although there are unconfirmed rumors that there are remnants of that 1860 building in the current Salvation Army structure on Fourth Avenue. The location is now a parking lot.

Additional resources:

History of Gloria Dei

Washington State Historical Society, C1986.43.53.12.7.2; C1986.43.61.1.26.1.26 (as Salvation Army in 1961)

Thanks to Sue Schultz and Gloria Dei Lutheran for information and use of photograph.

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