While many newer churches provide plenty of room and modern convenience for today’s worshippers, they often lack the reverence of ornate religious architecture seen in many older ones.

In Bellingham, many of these old churches still stand. Some continue their roles as religious institutions, while others have been adapted to more secular use. Here’s a look at several more of the area’s historical churches. (Read part one here.)

Church of the Assumption – 2116 Cornwall Avenue

This local Catholic parish was established in 1889 by Aegidius Junger, the German-born Bishop of Nisqually. Its first church building was constructed at the intersection of State and Cedar Streets but, as with other churches of its day, growth brought about the need for expansion.

Bellingham’s Cornwall Avenue had plenty of cable car wires above it when The Church of the Assumption was built in the mid-1920s. J.W. Sandison photo courtesy of Whatcom Museum

In 1906, Father Leo Ferland worked to purchase property along Cornwall Avenue, then known as Dock Street. It was another seven years, however, before the Church of the Assumption would actually move there, after its Catholic school was built by Father James Barrett. The school was staffed by Dominican sisters from 1913 to 1972.

The iconic brick church that sports the city’s tallest steeple, however, was constructed between 1920 and 1921 at a cost of around $200,000 (about $3.17 million today). Unsurprisingly, the church acquired substantial debt in completing its new home, and the Great Depression of the 1930s did it no favors. The church was officially dedicated on October 12, 1921, but it would not be fully paid for until 1949.

The church underwent exterior repairs and cleaning in 2018, leaving it in great shape for its 100th birthday in 2021. Photo credit: Matt Benoit

In 1962, a gymnasium and parish center building were constructed, giving the church a multi-use facility for everything from sporting events to festivals. Since the turn of the 21st Century, the church has seen several improvements: in 2000, the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and gathering space was added, along with other repairs.

In 2018, the church roof was replaced, along with re-glazing of many of the building’s stained-glass windows. Brick repair and cleaning also was conducted, leaving the church gleaming anew into the future.

The Church of the Assumption conducts four weekend Masses, including one in Spanish, as well as daily Masses and other Catholic services.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church – 2117 Walnut Street

This modern day Columbia neighborhood church started its life as Whatcom St. Paul’s in 1885, after Women’s Guild of the Church of the Messiah members organized various entertainment options for fundraising, including “Mrs. Jarley’s Wax Works.”

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church has a long history in Bellingham. Its current church building was finished in 1927. Clyde Banks photo courtesy of Whatcom Museum

Thirteen hundred dollars later, on land donated by mill owner Henry Roeder, a wooden church was built. Its first service, delivered by Reverend John Hoffman Birkhead, took place May 10, 1885. Other Episcopalian parishes were established in Sehome and Fairhaven, but the merging of these communities into Bellingham led to the merging of the churches, too.

The Fairhaven church, St. James, operated the local St. Luke’s Hospital from 1892 to 1904, when it was conveyed to St. Paul’s. The parish operated the hospital for the next 34 years, before deeding it to the community in 1938.

In the mid-1920s, plans for a new church structure began. Eventually, architect F. Stanley Piper was hired to oversee the construction of a Gothic cruciform design with seating for up to 500 worshippers. A spot at the corner of Eldridge and Walnut Streets was chosen, and was ideal at the time.

St. Paul’s is still a striking landmark in Bellingham’s Columbia neighborhood. Photo credit: Matt Benoit

Groundbreaking took place in July 1925, with construction handled by Chisom, Selene and Standen. A cornerstone was laid that September. The new church was completed and dedicated on September 27, 1927, at a cost of $45,000 (about $720,000 today). Its light-colored tapestry brick, fir flooring and 16 stained glass windows were a welcome sight to church-goers.

In 1950, a religious education addition—named Stimpson Hall—was made to the church’s north side, and included a library and clergy offices.  The year 1956 brought the church its most famous visitor: Eleanor Roosevelt. The former First Lady attended the christening of her four-month-old godson, and also gave a speech at the Leopold Hotel while in town.

St. Paul’s second addition, completed in 1996, is Haggen-Clark Hall. It includes a commercial kitchen, sports hall, and multiple levels of class/meeting rooms. Today, St. Paul’s original 1885 building still stands, and is still used by the church.

First Church of Christ, Scientist – 1027 North Forest St

Better known today as “The Majestic Ballroom,” a rentable event location, the Beaux-Arts Classical Revival style building was constructed in 1916 for the local denomination of Christian Scientists. Mary Baker Eddy established the church in Boston in 1879, with a foundation of belief centered on prayer as a means to solve problems micro and macro.

The modern-day Majestic Ballroom began in 1916 as a branch of the First Church of Christ Scientist. Fred Jukes photo courtesy of Whatcom Museum

Designed by architect George F. Dunham, the structure features Tuscan columns standing over a large portico at the entrance. By the late 1970s, the building was a Pentecostal church. Today, the local First Church of Christ, Scientist branch meets in the 2700 block of Lakeway Drive, near historic Bayview Cemetery.

The Majestic, meanwhile, is host to all manner of weddings, dances and concerts, secular and otherwise. Its top floor covers 4,500 square feet, with oak flooring and high ceilings. Below is another 2,000 square feet of dance floor, with an area for a full bar. If the Majestic’s cream-colored walls could talk, they would likely have a lot to say.

The Majestic as it sits today along North Forest Street in Bellingham. Photo credit: Matt Benoit
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