Sears Building/Site of First Presbyterian Church and Manse- Franklin St.

Location: 600 Franklin St SE
Religious communities; Downtown National Historic District;  mid-Century modern

First Presbyterian Church and Parsonage (pg 16)First Presbyterian Church and manse, Franklin Street around 1891, Olympia Tribune Souvenir Edition, Washington State Library first pres nowSears Building in 2003,  photograph by Ed Echtle (2003)

The First Presbyterian Church was the first church in Olympia, and the first Presbyterian church north of the Rockies. It was organized in 1853 in a cooper shop (now location of Heritage Bank) and met there until the construction of the building at the corner of Legion Way and Franklin Street in about 1860. This building was used by the congregation until 1908 when it built an larger brick building on the same spot. After First Presbyterian merged with First Congregational to form the United Churches of Olympia, the two churches continued to meet here until the 1949 earthquake. At that time the building was considered unsafe and demolished. the congregation met at the Liberty Theater until the current building at 11th and Capitol was erected in the early 1950s.

The wooden building that was replaced by the brick building was moved to the nearby corner of 5th and Adams and became the first permanent home of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, and then the Salvation Army (without its steeple), yet another example of the “musical pews” phenomenon described in the listing for Gloria Dei.

The manse (pastor’s home) to the right of the church building in the above left photograph was built around 1884. It was moved to the southwest corner of 8th and Adams when a newer Foursquare style manse was erected on the same location in 1910. After the Presbyterian church was demolished in 1950, that newer manse was moved to Jefferson Street between 9th and 10th, and no longer exists. A newspaper photograph shows the older and newer manses in one picture as the newer manse was being moved. After the move, the congregation purchased a home on Carlyon Street to serve as its manse.

In 1951 or 1952, former Wohleb employee George Ekvall designed the Sears Building now at this location. According to the heritage inventory, the location and design were an attempt by Sears to compete with the Miller’s store at the corner of Capital and Legion. The building is located in the Downtown National Historic District and is listed as an historic contributing building. It has recently been renovated into apartments and retail facilities.

Additional resources:

Washington  State Historical Society (enter the following catalog numbers in Collections Search box), C1959.8.7, C1959.2.9(brick building), C2013.18.6 (brick building), C1952.18.3 (moving of Foursquare manse, with older manse in background, not scanned)

Bird’s Eye View of Olympia, 1879

Olympia Heritage inventory (Sears Building)

Downtown National Historic District

DAHP mid-Century modern Walking Tour















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