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Christ Church History

Christ Episcopal Church was born in 1889, the same year Washington achieved statehood. Its history is deeply connected to the history of Tacoma.

The history of Christ Church begins with St. Luke’s, a downtown Tacoma congregation organized in the late 1870s. As Tacoma’s population expanded due to the railroad and timber industry booms, St. Luke's in downtown Tacoma began to outgrow its space. In 1883, this growth spurred the vestry and rector to form a new parish. They purchased nine lots on the corner of North 3rd and K streets – at that time in the forested outskirts of Tacoma -- and started building.

The new church, Trinity Chapel, held its first liturgy in December 1889. The gothic-style church cost $8,000 and held 300 people. In 1926, both St. Luke's and Trinity were facing financial difficulties. In 1927, the parish meeting house was erected and named Wells Hall after the first rector of Trinity Parish.

When first built, Wells Hall contained an assembly room and stage, large gymnasium, Sunday School space, kitchen, sewing room, library, and a "retiring room" for men. Wells Hall continues to be the center of church-related activity today, though uses of the space have changed over the years. Trinity House, connecting Wells Hall and the sanctuary, was constructed in 1957 and contains a chapel, columbarium, offices, meeting rooms, classrooms, and a library.

In the late 1960s, authorities declared the old church building structurally unsafe. This made way for Christ Church parishioners to build a new, dramatically different (and controversial) church structure. The new sanctuary was completed and dedicated in 1969. The modern sanctuary, designed by renowned Brutalist architect Paul Thiry, stands in sharp contrast to the traditional building that preceded it. Its simple, plain interior is reminiscent of the stark early Christian basilicas and its modernity is an affirmation of spiritual life in an atomic age.

In addition to its distinctive architectural features, the sanctuary contains a number of striking pieces of liturgical art, as well as an internationally acclaimed Brombaugh pipe organ.