The interior of the main sanctuary of Mount Zion Baptist Church is shown on Thursday, March 8, 2018, in Seattle. 
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The interior of the main sanctuary of Mount Zion Baptist Church is shown on Thursday, March 8, 2018, in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Seattle's newest landmark: Mount Zion Baptist Church

What started in the 19th Century as a group of people holding church services in their homes, grew into the city's largest African American congregation.

Mount Zion Baptist Church was incorporated in 1894. This week, Mayor Jenny Durkan signed an ordinance formally designating it a historic city landmark. The city council approved the designation in May.

Reverend Dr. Phyllis Beaumonte led the effort to nominate Mount Zion for landmark status. She says the congregation has always been an example of progress for Seattle.

Beaumonte: “With Mount Zion Baptist Church's status as a Seattle Historic Landmark comes the assurance that the legacy of faith, love, hope, and justice, which began 128 years ago, will continue.”

The church was once Seattle's only African American Baptist church. 128 years later, it’s known as the largest African American congregation in the state.


The building’s interior and exterior will now be preserved as a landmark. Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell says the institution also represents a cultural landmark in Seattle.

Harrell: "Mount Zion is a second home to many in our African American community. The cornerstone of the Mount Zion church family is self-help, the empowerment of people, and reinforcing the community spiritually, educationally, socially, and politically. It is a place of hope and camaraderie for positive change.”

Over the years, church members have been greatly involved in the community. Parishioners have opened credit unions, new Baptist churches, and the city’s first African American branch of the YWCA. One longtime pastor, Reverend Dr. Samuel McKinney, was a leader in civil rights in Seattle. He died in April at age 91.

McKinney was a driving force behind improvements to the church, including the addition of an education wing. Mayor Durkan’s office says the church’s design “was the product of Reverend Dr. McKinney’s vision to create a place of worship that reflected African heritage through its structural form and architectural vocabulary”.

As a designated city landmark, the church is now eligible for economic incentives and technical assistance for the continued preservation of the landmark.