As Rev. McKinney remembered, his Mount Zion Baptist Church set to become Seattle landmark

Tuesday, a celebration of the life of Rev. Dr. Samuel B. McKinney was held at McCaw Hall following the civil rights leader’s death at the age of 91 early last month. Now, legislation is in motion to designate McKinney’s home church at 19th and Madison as an official Seattle landmark and protect the building’s architectural features.

“Landmark status is reserved for locations in our City that have been of exceptional value to social, political, architectural or community causes – and in the long history of Mount Zion Baptist Church, it has contributed greatly to all of these and more,” an announcement of the legislation from Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office reads.

The church went in front of the landmarks board last summer and won designation that fall with protections for “the site; the exteriors of the church building, educational unit, the Gideon Bell Tower, the interior of the sanctuary; the James Washington, Jr. sculpture ‘Oracle of Truth.'” “All elements of the building and site that are liturgical in nature” are exempt from the protections, the Seattle Medium reports.

According to this CHS Re:Take history of the church, Mount Zion was founded in the 1890s, and for its first decade rented spaces downtown. Church members date Mount Zion to 1890 when “a small group of African Americans held prayer services in their homes.” The church eventually bought its own property and moved to 11th and Union joining First African Methodist Episcopal at 14th and Pine. 24 years later, Mount Zion moved to its present day home.

As development on E Madison has risen around it, Mount Zion has also been making longterm plans for redevelopment and has sold off nearby property. In 2015, Mount Zion celebrated its 125th anniversary.

After last year’s designation by the landmarks board, the legislation from the mayor’s office will be in the hands of the city council to finalize the structure’s protections.

Durkan’s office says proclaiming the landmark is another appropriate honor to mark Rev. McKinney’s long and  important contributions to the city.

“We can think of no better way to honor his memory and the contributions of the Mount Zion Baptist Church to the African American community in our City than to commemorate this institution in our civic lifer as a permanent landmark in Seattle.”


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