AKA: First Unitarian Society, Unitarian Chapel #1, Sehome, Bellingham, WA

Structure Type: built works - religious structures - churches

Designers: [unspecified]

Dates: constructed 1909-1909

1 story

400 Cedar Street
Sehome, Bellingham, WA 98225

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The Unitarian Chapel was located on the southwest corner of North Forest Street and Cedar Street. It may have been located at 430 North Forest Street in 1950, as per a Sanborn map of that year.


The Bellingham congregation was founded in 12/1904, and met in a "clubhouse" that it paid $100 a year at that time. The congregation's second minister, Rev. Fred Alban Weil, campaigned for a formal church building to be erected that he estimated would cost between $1,500 to $2,000. (See Fred Alban Weil, “Bellingham,” Pacific Unitarian, vol. XVII, no. 3, 01/1909, pp. 75-77.) This was built by summer of 1909. The congregation dwindled by the 1920s and the first church building was sold by 1925.

Building History

Bellingham's first Unitarian congregation formed in 1904, and grew gradually during the decade. An article on the Bellingham Unitarian church web site said of its early history: "In December 1904, Rev. William G. Eliot Jr., of Portland, Ore., came to Bellingham and began giving services every other week until the followers formed the First Unitarian Society of Bellingham on May 12, 1905 at the home of Mary Slade.In December 1904, Rev. William G. Eliot Jr., of Portland, Ore., came to Bellingham and began giving services every other week until the followers formed the First Unitarian Society of Bellingham on May 12, 1905 at the home of Mary Slade." (See Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship.org, "Our History," accessed 02/27/2021.)

A notice placed in the 02/1908 issue of the Pacific Unitarian said of the soon to be built Unitarian Chapel in Bellingham, WA: “The trustees who have charge of the plans for the chapel which the Unitarian Society will soon erect in Bellingham have virtually decided upon the site for the structure. As now planned the building will be erected on the southeast corner of Forest and Cedar Streets. Money to purchase this lot is practically at hand, and soon after its purchase work will be started on the chapel. The plans of the building committee also include the erection of a parish house and assembly hall on the same lot, the last to be used for social meetings and other gatherings for which the church would not be suitable. The plans of the pastor, Rev. Fred Alban Weil, include an extensive program of church work, aside from the Sabbath services, and in order to carry this work out satisfactorily the extra meeting hall will be needed.” (See “Notes,” Pacific Unitarian, vol. XVI, no. 4, 02/1908, p. 103.)

To prompt more money to be donated, a cornerstone was placed in late 02/1909. The Pacific Unitarian reported in 03/1909: “A decided impetus has been given the Bellingham work. The laying of the corner-stone of the chapel took place on Sunday afternoon, February 28th. The Portland church has contributed several hundred dollars to the building fund through a most generous response to the needs of the situation. Several hundred more dollars will enable the chapel to be dedicated without debt.” (See “Field Notes,” Pacific Unitarian, vol. XVII, no. 5, 03/1909, p. 153.)

Another note published in 05/1908, confirmed that the lot had been purchased: “The society appreciates the purchase of a site for a chapel in this city by the A.U.A. The lot is admirably situated for the use of the society, opposite the block upon which the new high school building will be erected, and convenient to car lines. The society hopes to construct a chapel in good time.” (See "Field Notes," Pacific Unitarian. vol. XVI, no. 7, 05/1908, p. 217.) TheAmerican Unitarian Association (AUA) donated $1,300 to secure the lot and gave another $500 to building the church. (See “Communications: To the Unitarians of the Pacific Coast,” Pacific Unitarian, vol. XVII no. 6, 04/1909, p. 170.) A chapel fund was started by 01/1909, and, by 02/1909, $650 had been raised. (See “Notes,” Pacific Unitarian, vol. XVII, no. 3, 01/1909, p. 68 and “Notes,” Pacific Unitarian, vol. XVII, no. 4, 02/1909, p. 102.)

In 1909, another article appeared in the Pacific Unitarian describing the Bellingham Unitarian Chapel, almost completed: "Within a month the new Unitarian chapel now building at the corner of Cedar and Forest streets is expected to be ready for occupancy. The building is rapidly nearing completion, and the roof of the structure practically is laid. Aside from the fact that it probably will be the handsomest place of worship in the city, the new chapel marks a new type in church architecture in this city. The most striking feature of the edifice, from an interior point of view, is the impression of bigness, due to the fact that the interior is completely open to the roof, there being no ceilings. This arrangement adds to the apparent spaciousness of the main floor, which is thirty-two by thirty-six feet in dimensions. It also emphasizes the simplicity of design that characterizes the entire building. The roof of the structure has a one-fifth pitch and the brackets consist of massive six-by-six beams, stained green, to harmonize with the general exterior effect. The entire building constructed in the most massive style, as for instance, in the siding. This consists of resawn [sic] of two-inch planks, twelve inches in width, with about ten inches showing to the weather. Entrance to the chapel is to be by a large front porch fronting on Forest Street. Access to the porch is gained at one side from a winding path starting from the top of the hill on the Garden Street side. The grounds traversed by the path will be parked by Mrs. H.H. Zenor and set out with shrubbery, etc. One feature of the interior that will attract attention is four sets of cross beams, extending from the plate to a point about midway to the apex of the roof. These are solid six-inch beams, mortised together, and their use gives an unusual impression of strength and solidity. Extending under each set of beams is a series of five electric lights, which will be fitted with frosted globes. This system of lighting will be supplemented also with a series of side lights. The rafters supporting the roof are boxed in and set sixteen inches apart. The spaces between each beam are filled with a solid panel of slashed grain fir. Fir has been the material used for practically all the interior finish. The panel effect is further carried out by a panel, seven feet high, running around the entire interior of the walls. From the top of this panel to the plate, the wall is covered with natural burlap. Behin the pulpit the panel rises higher, and there are half posts on either side. At each end of the structure, in the triangular space formed by the sloping roofs, the panel effect is further carried out by alternate spaces of paneling burlap. At the entrance to the main floor from the port, an extension of this paneling from the wall provides a form of hall. A similar extension of the paneling screens the minister’s room from the general view of the interior. The interior is lighted by casement windows, fitted with diamonds panes of clear plate-glass. On three sides, a specially constructed type of projecting window permits the use of three large window seats. Instead of pews, the seating arrangement consists of large oak settees, mission style, provided with four-inch cushions, seven feet long. There are seating accommodations for 125 persons. Other features of the structure are a class-room and kitchen. The heating apparatus is connected with an artistically constructed clinker brick chimney with fireplace on the easterly side, built in flush with the wall. The building has been so designed that it may be easily enlarged at any future time. In interior finish the structure is second to none in the city in point of richness of effect coupled with simplicity and good taste. The entire structure will have cost $2,000 when complete. While the building is expected to be ready for use within a month, the dedicatory services probably will not be held until some time next fall.” (See “The Bellingham Chapel,” Pacific Unitarian, vol. XVII no. 7, 05/1909, pp. 208-209, text reprinted from the Bellingham American, of 04/11/1909.)

Construction on the chapel concluded by 06/1909. Notes from the Pacific Unitarian stated: “Since holding services in the chapel, congregations are averaging fifty. The chapel is a source of joy and the society wishes to thank all who have contributed toward it. A small sum is yet needed to finish the building.” (See “Field Notes,” Pacific Unitarian, vol. XVII no. 9, 07/1909, p. 282.)

The congregation disappeared by the early 1920s, despite efforts to revive it, and the chapel was sold in 1925.


The Unitarian Church #1 was razed or moved. In 1950, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints operated a Bellingham church on the southwest corner of Cedar and North Forest Streets.

PCAD id: 23925