Mount Zion Baptist Church seeks landmark status

Mount Zion Baptist Church in Seattle, as pictured in the church’s application for landmark preservation status. (Photo by Mount Zion Baptist Church.)

The city’s oldest black Baptist church, Mount Zion Baptist Church, is seeking a city landmark designation.

In early September, Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board will review their nomination.

According to the nominating documents, Mount Zion Baptist was founded in 1890 by a group of African Americans from Memphis, Tennessee. They wanted a place that people of color could worship. In 1918, the church settled in what is now their current location, at the corner of 19th Avenue and East Madison Street.

Over the years, the congregation has expanded and includes people of all races. In 1975, Mount Zion built a sanctuary that incorporated structures to represent both the church’s Christian beliefs and African ancestral roots and the sanctuary’s stained-glass windows represent church leaders and civil rights heroes.

According to the nomination:

The Sanctuary structure, architecturally designed to facilitate a close communal bond to Africa, resembles a community comprised of three African huts. The colors present in the sanctuary are royal African colors that additionally have theological meaning. In theological terms, red represents divinity and Christ’s blood and purple signifies that we are royal children of Christ the King.

The church has served as a place of gathering for many groups including civil rights leaders during the 1960s, Seattle Church Women United, the Seattle Alliance of Black School Educators and Grandmothers Against Gun Violence. They have also hosted events to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Over the past century, Mount Zion Baptist Church has become widely known for its historic significance as Seattle’s oldest black church and contributions to the community.

The public is invited to attend the landmark status meeting and make comments about the nomination, which will be held at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6 at Seattle City Hall. Written comments can also be mailed to the city’s landmarks preservation board by 3 p.m. on Sept. 5, according to the city.

A choir sings at Mt. Zion Baptist Church during a celebration Friday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo by Sharayah Lane.)