Church and chapel interiors often express remarkable temporal continuity. They are lovingly maintained by devoted members of an alter guild, dusted and polished but seldom significantly altered. This makes these spaces — sacred on many levels — significant places to feel the presence of the past.
For me, the tiny Thomsen Chapel nestled on the northern edge of the gloriously cavernous St. Mark’s Cathedral on Seattle’s Capitol Hill is one such portal. The building (1245 10th Avenue East) was dedicated in 1931, replacing an early church structure at Seneca Street and Broadway that housed the congregation from 1897 to 1931. That church had in its turn replaced the first St. Mark’s at Olive Way and Stewart Street, where parishioners worshiped from 1889 to 1897.
Thomsen Chapel is home to a marble baptismal font where hundreds of Seattle babies were christened in the second St. Mark’s. St. Mark’s founders Thomas and Virginia Prosch stood godparent to many of those infants, and I like to think of their calm steady presence beside anxious new parents and the babies — placid or squirming — they carried to the font.
Many 1930s Seattle brides made joyous but modest marriages in Thomsen Chapel. One of these was my friend Blanche Hamilton Hutchings Caffiere, who wed her first husband, Keith, there on November 11, 1932. Another was northwest author Mary Bard, who married physician Clyde Jensen in Thomsen Chapel on June 27, 1934. Mary’s sister Betty, who as Betty MacDonald would eleven years later publish The Egg and I, was matron of honor.
Thomsen Chapel is far more brightly lit these days than in its early years, and it has (thankfully) been earthquake retrofitted. These nods to modernity have not altered the space’s timeless — or eternal — quiet dignity.
August 12, 2015