A Seattle Melting Pot

Washington Hall

Hans Pederson built Seattle’s Washington Hall, a Masonic lodge, in 1908 for the Danish Brotherhood. Located at 14th Avenue and East Fir Street, it is one block from historic Yessler Way. Washington Hall served as an anchor for Scandinavian immigrants who were arriving in droves. They required housing and a place to settle during the time they mastered the English language and customs of the American Northwest.

Pederson, my father, became a leader in the Danish community. He later built the church, St. Johannes Dansk Evangelisk Luthereske Kirke on 24th and East Spruce. Pederson’s niece, Laura Madsen, enjoyed youth group meetings at the church when she first arrived in Seattle from Denmark. New arrivals were housed and fed at St. Johannes. After they mastered the language and customs, they could then be placed in jobs and begin new American lives. Since they often worked in the homes of other Danish families, they sometimes needed a push to learn English.

A century later, Washington Hall continues as an ethnic melting pot. “Throughout its history, it sheltered immigrants from Denmark, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Brazil. Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. DuBois spoke there, and artists like Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, and Billie Holiday played there.” Purchased by the Sons of Haiti in 1973, Washington Hall serves as an example of the vitality of continuing immigration. Historic Seattle purchased the hall in 2009. The organization is currently raising funds to renovate the building.

Photo credit: Joe Mabel, Wiki Commons

 

2 responses

  1. I think currently Ethiopians or Eritreans hold their religious services in this building. So on Sundays you see folks all dressed in white robes arriving for their services, it is beautiful and striking especially on sunny days!

    • Thank you for telling me this. Since I live on the east coast, I learn about my father little by little —he died when I was one month old. Two weeks ago I published my book about him, “The Mysterious Builder of Seattle Landmarks, The Search for my Father.” We held the launch in Washington Hall and I got to imagine its history. i’m so glad to know it is still thriving, thanks to the Historic Seattle Foundation that raised the funds to restore it. I know that 206 Zulu and a transgender chorus use it, I had heard also the Eritreans, but I didn’t know how they used it.

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