December 6, 2022


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5 Beautiful Mid Century Modern Churches in the Pacific Northwest

The Pacific Northwest is well-known as a hotspot for Mid Century Modern architecture. While the area’s Rummer houses receive a lot of attention, this region is home to many other striking examples of mid century architecture. Among them are an abundance of churches.

Many of these beautiful houses of worship can be found in Eugene and Portland, Oregon, and Longview, Richmond, and Olympia, Washington. But there are also examples in communities such as Colfax, Bellingham, Grandview, Silverton and others. Below, we share a few churches with you that showcase the best of Pacific Northwest Mid Century Modern design.

Zion Lutheran Church in Portland, OR

The Zion Lutheran Church may catch your eye as you drive through downtown Portland. Photo by Ipoellet/CC BY-SA 3.0.

Constructed in 1950, the Zion Lutheran Church in Portland, OR is a lovely example of the Northwest Regional style. Indeed, architect Pietro Belluschi was one of the chief figures in the movement. In recognition of its architectural significance, it was declared a Portland Historic Landmark, and is also listed in the US National Register of Historic Places. The exterior of the building is modest but attractive, while the interior features a stunning vaulted ceiling with swooping buttresses that call to mind the graceful branches of trees.

Christ Church Episcopal in Tacoma, WA

exterior of Christ Church Episcopal
The brutalist façade of the Christ Church Episcopal in Tacoma, WA commands attention. Photo by Hans Olav Lien/CC-BY-SA-3.0.

While visiting Tacoma, WA, be sure to drop by the Christ Church Episcopal building. The concrete brutalist structure is imposing inside and out, offering worshippers and visitors a sense of awe. The American Institute of Architecture award went to architect Paul Thiry in recognition of his stunning achievement. Thiry himself is known as the “father of Pacific Northwest modernism.”

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City First Church of the Nazarene in Eugene, OR

facade of the City First Church of the Nazarene.
The brick façade of the City First Church of the Nazarene gives the building a warm, inviting look. Photo by Rick Obst/CC-BY-2.0.

According to our research, the distinctive structure of the City First Church of the Nazarene dates back to the 1950s. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information about this church online. But if you are ever in Eugene, see if you can plan a stop there. Its red brick exterior and exquisite decorative details will make a lasting impression.

East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, WA

Front entrance to the East Shore Unitarian Church.
A classic sloping roofline and substantial overhang give the East Shore Unitarian Church an iconic Mid Century Modern look. Photo by Joe Mabel/CC-BY-SA-3.0.

The Pacific Coast Architecture Database quotes the Architectural Record in a 12/1957 review as saying, “Under the unifying canopy of an elemental roof form Architects Bassetti & Morse have created a space of simple dignity and strong character. On a high site among tall firs this building is peculiarly responsive to its worship purposes, its environment and its budget: $60,000.”

University Unitarian Church in Seattle, WA

interior of University Unitarian Church in Seattle
The clean lines of the University Unitarian Church in Seattle make it an elegant house of worship in Wedgwood, Seattle. Photo by Joe Mabel CCA-SA 4.0

Among the best-known mid century churches in the Pacific Northwest is the University Unitarian Church in Seattle, designed by architect Paul Hayden Kirk. The façade features a row of decorative wood structures running along one side of the façade have an almost sculptural appearance. UUC maintains a page where you can read in-depth about the building and its famous architect.

If you enjoyed this post of Mid Century Modern churches, you might also like A Road Trip in Time: Pacific Northwest MCM Gas Stations. Or read on for another famous Mid Century Modern church designed by Eero Saarinen. You can also follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest to explore more history and examples of Pacific Northwest Modernism.