Theme: Spirituality & Community
Mount Zion Baptist Church stands at the corner of 19th Avenue and East Madison Street in Seattle’s Central Area as a beacon of community spirituality and faith. The church was founded in 1890, 38 years after the establishment of the City of Seattle and one year after Washington became a state. Mount Zion’s legacy of more than 100 years of continued service to Seattle is a testament to the deep spirituality of the community. Led with compassion and strength, particularly through the 1960s civil rights movement, the church grew at one point to more than 2,500 members, making it the largest African American congregation in the state.
In the late 19th century, African American pioneers relocated to Seattle seeking opportunities and a better future for themselves and their families. Many of these pioneers left behind strong connections to churches that were the soul of their communities. Seattle was new territory, and it was left to newcomers to build houses of worship that would nurture and support the faith that was at the center of community-based togetherness. Congregants originally met in homes until First Baptist Church donated the use of a store at 14th Avenue and East Madison Street for services.
Mount Zion Baptist Church was incorporated by 1903. It has been housed at the 19th Avenue location since 1918. In 1920, a new brick church was built on the site adjacent to a parsonage that was already in use. As the church population grew and its mission expanded to include its response as a faith-based stakeholder to extend education outreach, Mount Zion’s footprint became larger.
In two phases, the church campus was upgraded. Church leaders and congregants were very engaged in a process to influence the design aesthetic of the new buildings. An education unit was constructed in 1962 that included classrooms, a nursery, a library, a kitchen, a fellowship hall, a parlor, and church offices. The current Mount Zion Baptist Church was constructed in 1975 and is an example of Afrocentric architecture, expressing the history of African and American faiths.
Reverend Dr. Samuel B. McKinney (1926-2018)
Reverend McKinney assumed leadership at Mount Zion Baptist Church in 1958 and served for four decades, the longest continuous pastorship in the church’s history. He retired in 1998 and returned for a short interim in 2005. In 2014, 19th Avenue between East Madison and East Union Streets was designated Rev. Dr. S. McKinney Ave, an honorary street name to acknowledge McKinney’s legacy as a prominent civil rights leader and his dedicated service to the spiritual well-being of the community.
Historic Landmark Status
The City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board designated Mount Zion Baptist Church a historic landmark in October 2017, with Mayor Jenny Durkan officially signing the ordinance in June 2018. The church nomination met all six City of Seattle landmark designation standards, making it one of only four city landmarks honored with this distinction.