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