Stop 07: Old St. Peter's Church

Stop 07: Old St. Peter's Church

Tacoma's First Church

Built in 1873

Old St. Peter's Church is Tacoma's oldest existing building and first church in Tacoma. It is still an active congregation.

While on an official visit in 1873, Episcopal Bishop Benjamin W. Morris urged the people of Tacoma to build a church here. The Hanson & Ackerson Sawmill provided the lumber. The Mill Superintendent told local saloons that scrip would not be used until the church was built. This system of recording hours worked and pay earned on a cedar shingle usually allowed mill workers to buy what they needed without cash, which was scarce in town. So, Old St. Peter's was constructed in just one week!

The Oldest Bell-Tower in North America

Children in Philadelphia raised money for the bell and sent it to the church as a surprise. When the huge bell arrived by ship in October 1874, the townspeople and sailors carried it up the hill to the church. Since there was no bell tower, two loggers cut the top off a nearby tree and the sailors hoisted the bell up 40 feet to the top. One of the loggers took the time to count the rings on the tree and reported that it was a sapling when Columbus arrived in the Americas! Because of this, the resulting "bell tower" became known as "The Oldest Bell-Tower in North America."

In 1875, thinking the bare trunk supporting the bell looked rather ugly, some women planted starts of English Ivy at its base. It took so well to the climate, that it quickly covered the stump and climbed over the church! People happily aided the spread of this plant throughout the area by taking cuttings and planting the invasive species in their own yards.

What do you think?

If Tacoma didn't have a church before Old St. Peter's was built, where do you think people met for church? A. On the beach, B. In the woods, or C. In a saloon (Answer: C)


2910 North Starr Street
WA 98403

Next Stop: Schoolhouse Marker

From St. Peters Church, walk uphill two blocks on Starr Street. You'll see a large stone marker diagonally from where you are standing on the southeast corner of North 28th and Starr Streets.