125th Anniversary Parish History
In 2014, Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church begins its 125th year serving Catholics in Seattle and celebrates its status as the city’s oldest existing parish. In short, Sacred Heart Parish has quite the storied history – one of endurance, commitment, service and above all, faith. Our story began in 1889—the same year that Washington was admitted as the 42nd state in the United States and the great Seattle fire ravaged through the downtown area.
Over the years, the parish has inhabited several church buildings and locations, but the original was on top of Denny Hill at 6th and Bell Streets. In 1891, the Redemptorist congregation accepted pastoral leadership of the parish. The community initially consisted of three priests and two brothers, who in the early years not only served Sacred Heart, but also Snohomish, Everett, Ballard and Green Lake. That same year, Sacred Heart Elementary School opened.
In 1899, tragedy struck and the church was destroyed by arson, but Bishop O’Dea laid the cornerstone for the church to be rebuilt. In 1904, as Seattle continued to grow, it became necessary to regrade some of the large hills, including Denny Hill, so at the request of Bishop O’Dea, when Sacred Heart relocated, it moved further from St. James Cathedral to Warren Avenue and Thomas Street.
The church faced the prospect of rebuilding yet again in 1958, when the committee for the 1962 World’s Fair (for which the now-famous Space Needle was built) condemned much of the land in the
vicinity of the church. Sixteen property owners, including Sacred Heart, appealed to the Washington Supreme Court, and won.
In 1960, Archbishop Connolly blessed and laid the cornerstone of the present church. Fr. Bolger, the pastor at the time, arranged for Washington logs to be shipped to Italy, out of which the statues now decorating the church were carved. In 1969, because many area homes had been condemned to make way for the World’s Fair site, there were fewer families living near the parish, and the school closed.
Sacred Heart has a long history of service to the community’s poor. As just a couple of examples, since 2004, Sacred Heart has housed DESC, a homeless shelter, in the former school building. In 2012, Fr. Ta was instrumental in ensuring that the St. Vincent de Paul food program, which planned to close its operation out of the former convent building on the parish property, continued on as the Queen Anne Food Bank at Sacred Heart.
Over the years Sacred Heart has nurtured the faith and souls of tens of thousands Catholics of all ages (from Seattle, its neighboring communities and visitors all over the world), provided parochial education to thousands of young children, served countless homeless and hungry in need, and administered many sacraments, including daily Reconciliation, to Catholics seeking spiritual nourishment and renewal. The parish was also the catalyst for the establishment of at least eight other parishes around the city. Today—and into our future—we will remain a small, but mighty, community “hearth” committed to continuing to serve Seattle Catholics and those most in need.