skip to main content
caption: The historic University Temple United Methodist Church on 15th Avenue in Seattle's University District was demolished on June 18, 2021.
Enlarge Icon
The historic University Temple United Methodist Church on 15th Avenue in Seattle's University District was demolished on June 18, 2021.
Credit: KUOW PHOTO/KATIE CAMPBELL

'I was baptized here. I thought I'd have my memorial there.' University District bids adieu to historic church

A well-known landmark in Seattle's University District is being turned to rubble.

But as hard as it may be to say goodbye, it will return.

The University Temple United Methodist Church has stood on its corner of what is now 15th Avenue for nearly a hundred years.

The modest brick tower was still looking out over the treetops on Friday morning, as dozens of people gathered to witness its demolition.

caption: University Temple United Methodist Church Reverend Paul Ortiz
Enlarge Icon
University Temple United Methodist Church Reverend Paul Ortiz
Credit: KUOW PHOTO/KATIE CAMPBELL

The church is precious to Reverend Paul Ortiz's congregation, he says, "and yet, the congregation realized that they were spending too much effort and time trying to upkeep an old building that wasn't really suited for life today. They wanted to invest more in people. And so, the difficult decision was made to demolish and reimagine our space."

'Reimagine,' he says with intention, because the church is not gone for good.

Rather than continue investing money into, say, the finicky furnace, Ortiz says the congregation wanted to create a space that reflects the community's needs today.

Ortiz is actually the church's new pastor, having only been on the job for the last year. He's developed his own connection to the building — even as he led services virtually during the pandemic — but he's proud to be a part of its next chapter.

Construction will take two or three years.

But when it's complete, the new space will include student housing run by a community group; an all-ages performance space, which University of Washington students advocated for; a cafe, also run by a community group that has not yet been selected; and, most importantly, an airy wilderness-themed gathering space, the pews in which will not be stuck to the ground but easily moveable to change the space as they desire.

Leaders of the congregation say it’s the best way to remain sustainable and remain in the neighborhood.

The decision has been a long time coming. It took years of discussion and several studies to get to this point.

But now, congregants are ready to let go.

caption: Molly Hoffman watches as the University Temple United Methodist Church is demolished on June 18, 2021. She was baptized and married in the church — and she always thought her memorial service would be held there.
Enlarge Icon
Molly Hoffman watches as the University Temple United Methodist Church is demolished on June 18, 2021. She was baptized and married in the church — and she always thought her memorial service would be held there.
Credit: KUOW PHOTO/KATIE CAMPBELL

While it's sad to see the church they love torn down, longtime congregants like Molly Hoffman are proud of what will come next.

"I was born in 1941, so I was baptized here 80 years ago. And I, I was married there," she says. "In fact, I always sorta joked I thought I'd have my memorial there. Obviously, that hasn't happened, which is fine with me."

Instead, she says, she attended the church's memorial service, in a way.

And she'll be there for the rebirth, too.

store/f44666ba402c6be2c92bc5b8433736cc_mp4-thumb-00001.png Video Icon 19 secs
Enlarge Icon
The century-old University Temple United Methodist Church in Seattle's University District is demolished on June 18, 2021.
Credit: KUOW/KATIE CAMPBELL