In 1907 Lodge No. 29 purchased four lots (15,600 square feet) at 14th Avenue and East Fir Streets for $10,000. Wisconsin-born architect Victor Voorhees (1876-1970), who moved to Seattle from Minneapolis in 1904, designed the three-story building for a fee of $150. Contractor Hans Pederson was paid $22,225. Seattle Mayor John F. Miller attended the grand opening on Saturday, June 6, 1908, as did City Councilmen Hiram C. Gill (1866-1919) and Eugene Way. The Danish Brotherhood delayed the observation of Lodge No. 29's 20th anniversary until construction was complete. In September 1908 a surveyor determined that there was an error in the placement of the hall, resulting in the need to purchase five feet of the lot west of the building.
Washington Hall is a wood-framed building with a brick veneer. Of the building's two original brick parapets, only the one on the building's east-facing side survives; the other collapsed during a 1949 earthquake. Members of the Danish Brotherhood raised the original construction cost by purchasing building shares in a subscription drive. The building's many rooms included a lodge hall, dance hall with stage and dressing rooms, a bar and smoking room, library, kitchen, and cloakrooms. The large rear section of the building functioned as a boarding house for newly arrived Danish immigrants. At some point during the 1970s, a fire destroyed some original features of the building, including a skylight, in an area between the public rooms and boardinghouse. During the building's early years a coal-burning furnace provided heat; a July 10, 1918, bid from the McNamee Coal Company offers to supply Black Diamond and Mixed Steam Coal. By the 1970s Washington Hall's heating system was a combination of oil and gas, and a 2007 King County building assessment record describes the heating system as "electric wall."
Gathering Place for Many Cultures
Part of Washington Hall's appeal to renters was its combination of convenient location; a large, high-ceilinged dance hall with a fine wood floor, balcony, and abundant natural light; and smaller rooms such as the library that were suitable for meetings. Practical features such as dishes available for rent on-site (at an additional $5 charge in 1935) made it a popular venue for banquets, parties, and weddings.
One factor may have been the most important of all: Washington Hall differed significantly from many Seattle venues in that it was accessible to people from ethnic groups affected by de facto racial segregation. Rental records and minutes from Lodge meetings indicate that the Danish Brotherhood's practice of renting to a wide variety of ethnic, religious, and political organizations changed little over several decades. Washington's Twelfth Biennial State Convention of the Ancient Order of Hibernians was concluded at Washington Hall on September 19, 1912, with an installation of officers and a dance. Between January 1917 and September 1919 the library, dance hall, and other rooms were used by groups described in Lodge No. 29's ledger as the Italian Independent Society, Sons of Israel, Russian Relief, Serbian Defense, Patriotic Serbians, "Lithuanians," and the Jewish Socialist Party, in addition to parties, weddings, and musical performances.
Occasionally, sparse notations in hand-written rental ledgers from Washington Hall's early decades merely hint at the diversity of the buildings' users. Vague descriptions (for example, "Hebrew Jewish Bazaar" and "Jewish peddlers" in 1917) or a single person's name may appear next to the rental payment amount. Those individuals may represent concerts, religious services, political meetings, or family parties.
In 1921 the Seattle Herzl Congregation presented a Purim entertainment benefitting the Seattle Talmud Torah and the Bikur Cholim Sunday School. The evening included a violin recital by Miss Minnie Hurwitz, a short play in Hebrew, recitations, and songs. The Koupa Ezra Bessaroth congregation (later known as Congregation Ezra Bessaroth), which was incorporated in 1914, rented Washington Hall for religious services and other events before constructing a synagogue.
Immigrant communities found many opportunities to enjoy entertainment in languages familiar to them. "Capt. Peter Perunovich, singer and poet of Jugo-Slavia, will lecture in the Serbian tongue at Washington Hall ..." began a brief article in the June 22, 1928, Seattle Daily Times, which noted that "Captain Peterson plays the gusle, native instrument of his country, and ... served as a captain in the Serbian Army during the World War" ("Jugo-Slavian Poet ..."). Touring theater companies and poets such as Solomon Small (who performed under the name Smulewitz) gave Yiddish-language performances at Washington Hall during the 1910s and 1920s.
The Danish Brotherhood papers include a letter dated July 9, 1919, from the "Study of Methods of Americanization," a national immigration research project conducted by the Carnegie Corporation. The letter asks the Danish Brotherhood about specific activities engaged in by members of "your race" in order to assimilate into American life ("Study of Methods ...").
A November 17, 1917, ledger entry mentions a booking by the "Filipino Club" and Seattle's Filipino Youth Club held meetings and dances at Washington Hall as early as 1937. Historian Dorothy Fujita-Rony notes that "Men seeking female companionship had other options in Seattle ... as well as Washington Hall, a local meeting hall frequented by Filipina/os" (American Workers ..., 134), a reference to the many dances and social events Filipino groups organized there. In 1935 both the Filipino Press Club and the Filipino-American Chronicle rented the hall. The Burgos Lodge No. 10, Caballeros de Dimas-Alang, held dances and other events in the building from 1929 onward.
On September 24, 1922, The Seattle Times reported, "Seattle's Italian colony today will celebrate with a banquet and ball at Washington Hall ... the fifty-second anniversary of the triumphant entry of Rome in 1870 by Italian troops under King Victor Emmanuel II, Rome then becoming the capital of the kingdom" ("Italians to Celebrate ...").
When researching African American civic life in twentieth-century Seattle, it is not unusual to find documentation of parallel events such as the "First annual ball for Negro sailors at Washington Hall" held during Fleet Week in June 1938. Other Fleet Week dances at locations such as the Olympic Hotel, Washington Athletic Club, and Seattle Yacht Club would not have been open to Negro sailors. Washington Hall was the site of a November 23, 1933, ceremony for the installation of officers held by the Lewis Ford Post and Ladies' Auxiliary No. 289 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the members of which were African American.
In events foreshadowing the building's later purchase by the Sons of Haiti, an African American Masonic lodge, Washington Hall was the location of twice-monthly meetings of the Grand Lodge Emmett Holmes, Trinity Lodge No. 7, in 1913 (Raymer's Dictionary, 88). Forty years later, the hall was a location for business sessions of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington, F. & A.M. during its July 1953 convention. African American members of the International Women's Convention of the Church of God in Christ welcomed 600 members and delegates from around the United States, India, the Bahamas, Haiti, and Liberia to their eighth annual convention, held at Washington Hall in May 1958. Delta Sigma Theta, an African American sorority founded in 1913, held an event in the hall in 1937, and African American veterans of World War I were honored during a community event there the following year.
Throughout its history, Washington Hall has functioned as a sort of settlement house and home for mutual aid efforts to various ethnic communities. In the building's early days as the home of the Danish Brotherhood, newly arrived Danish immigrants lived in a rear section of the building that functioned as a boarding house. Decades later the Sons of Haiti lodge that acquired the building in the 1970s provided housing to a few low-income people. During the 1990s the Sons of Haiti rented the kitchen and lodge hall to a Korean-American senior citizens' association. In the early years of the twenty-first century, Washington Hall was rented frequently by the Jamaatul Ikhlas Muslim Community Center.
A rich variety of touring artists from around the world as well as local performers graced Washington Hall's stage over the decades, with that variety also reflecting Seattle's cultural diversity. Seattle's Jewish Dramatic Club rented the hall in 1917 (and perhaps earlier) and during the 1920s.
Miss Lillian Smith's Jazz Band performed at a benefit for the Seattle chapter of the NAACP on June 10, 1918; this may be Seattle's first jazz performance for which documentation survives (Cayton's Weekly, May 25, 1918). A December 6, 1926, evening of entertainment featuring, among others, African American actor Fred Darby, described as "the foremost colored character actor of the Northwest" ("Reader Will Offer ..."), included performances of the plays Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Emperor Jones. Mr. Darby was also accompanied by Cornish School graduate E. H. Booker in a group of songs. The evening ended with dancing to the music of Turnhams Syncopated Orchestra. "Tickets for sale at all of the music stores and the leading colored business houses" ("Reader Will Offer ..."). Acclaimed tap dancer and vaudevillian Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, who appeared in films with Will Rogers and Shirley Temple, performed at Washington Hall in September 1932.
Legendary jazz, blues, gospel, and rock artists including Duke Ellington and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Billie Holiday, Lightnin' Hopkins, Mahalia Jackson, and Fats Domino are among the hall's most famous performers. Jimi Hendrix performed with his high school band The Rockin' Kings at Washington Hall in 1960.
The renowned Seattle performing arts presenting organization On the Boards rented Washington Hall from the Sons of Haiti from 1978 to 1998. Many internationally known artists graced its stage, and emerging Northwest artists premiered or refined their work there.
Performers at Washington Hall have included Spalding Gray, Mark Morris, Meredith Monk, Rachel Rosenthal, Pat Graney, The Wooster Group, Bebe Miller and Company, La La La Human Steps, Ping Chong and Company, Eiko and Koma, Teatro del Sur of Buenos Aires, the Vusisizwe Players of South Africa, Bill Frisell, Julian Priester, Rennie Harris/Pure Movement, Laurie Anderson, Trimpin, Bill T. Jones, 33 Fainting Spells (Dayna Hanson and Gaelen Hanson), Jesse Bernstein, Jay Clayton, Alice B. Theater, D-9 Dance Collective, Bret Fetzer, Jesse Jaramillo, Karin Junkunsmith, Wade Madsen, Kibibi Monie, Peggy Platt, Run/Remain, Spectrum Dance Theater, Eyving Kang, John Gilbert, the Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet, and many, many others.
Weekend event listings in the May 18, 1979, edition of The Seattle Times include a sign of things to come: a "Punk Rock Show, Washington Hall Performance Gallery," as the building was known during the years that it housed On the Boards. 1979 saw more shows by locally and nationally recognized punk bands:
"Jello Biafra does a quick shampoo with beer ("it looks better than hair spray") and runs a hand over his wan arm -- the hair shaved in convict stripes to match his shirt. Back stage at Washington Hall, Jello, a young, muddy-complected vocalist, is gearing up for the Seattle performance of the Dead Kennedys" (Feeney, 217).
By 1981 Washington Hall was among venues where one might observe and experience slam dancing: "In Seattle, most slamming takes place during high-powered punk-rock or progressive-music concerts, ringside, center-front stage at Danceland U.S.A. and the Showbox on First Avenue, or Washington Hall Performance Gallery on 14th Avenue" (Feeney, 25).
The Danish theater ensemble Harmonien, a lively and familiar presence at Washington Hall since its opening, continued its tradition of staging a Danish-language production of the play En Sondag Paa Amager ("A Sunday in Amager") at Washington Hall every 25 years, launching a nine-performance run in May 1986. Both the grandmother and mother of 1986 lead actor Lori Larsen had also played the role of Lisbet, the play's heroine, in 1936 and 1961 respectively.
Seattle-based Ethiopian American hip-hop artist Gabriel Teodros performed at Washington Hall decades after family friends attended political meetings there during the 1970s.
Jazz pianist Oscar Holden (1886-1969) is a Seattle music legend whose descendants and relatives maintain the tradition of musicianship and performance. On March 29, 2014, members of the Holden family and the jazz ensemble The Teaching (Josh Rawlings, Evan Flory-Barnes, Jeremy Jones) performed at a fundraiser for Washington Hall. Keyboardist Dave Holden (b. 1937) shared memories of the building, mentioning past caretaker Ingeborg Kisbye (1911-2008) and other Danish people he knew, and describing the experience of hearing live music in the building during the 1950s and 1960s.
Connections to Significant Twentieth Century Events and Social Change
During its early decades, Washington Hall housed a barroom used by building renters, boardinghouse occupants, and members of the Lodge. Financial records show regular purchases of beer and playing cards, as well as a steady income; the bar room earned $102,000 in 1935.
Annual expenses included liquor and dance licenses, with the obvious exception of the Prohibition era (1916-1933). A lease dated October 29, 1924, makes it clear that anyone leasing the hall was expected to obey the law: "said lessee agrees ... at all times during said terms to conduct a decent and respectable place and not to sell or have on said premises or to permit others to carry liquor upon or to keep the same or drink the same on said premises" (M. C. Madsen lease).
Not everyone complied. Seattle Police Department officers from the "dry squad" raided the particularly lively wedding reception of George Samac, who sold hardware in a shop on King Street, and Amanda Medina on February 12, 1928. According to the next day's Seattle Times, the wedding guests initially "made the patrolmen welcome, thinking they had come to join the festivities." Police officers "circulated through the hall, gathering the wine, whiskey, and brandy" before ordering the orchestra to stop playing. Police Lieutenant J. L. Allen "demanded that the owner of the liquor step forward and be arrested," and one M. Sperck did so, declaring, "I was the 'best man' for the wedding yesterday so I might as well be the 'best man' for the police party" ("Best Man ..."). Sperck was arrested, charged with possession of 45 gallons of wine, four quarts of whiskey and three quarts of brandy. He was released the next day on $500 bail.
Lodge No. 29 itself maintained a good record with regard to liquor licenses: "no previous suspensions" were noted in a 1954 application completed by Henning Neilsen, who listed himself as a Danish citizen (Liquor Control Board application).
The King County Elections Board occasionally rented the building for use as a polling place between the 1920s and the 1960s. Mayoralty candidates were invited by the Lincoln League to speak before "a gathering of colored voters in Washington Hall," as reported in a 1920 Seattle Daily Times article ("Sartori Enters Race").
Seattle resident James Hassel, a representative of Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association and Black Star Line shipping company, addressed an audience of African American Seattleites at Washington Hall on March 14, 1920. Lecture subjects included "The Cause of Unrest in Panama" and "The Progress of the Negro Factories Corporation Boom" (Hill and Garvey).
Local labor organizations often met at Washington Hall. During the 1930s and 1940s the building was the location of meetings of the Stove Mounters Union, the Cannery Workers Union, Fire Fighters Local 27, and the Street Pavers Union, among others. Businesses and business groups such as the Charmed Land Dairy and the Raw Milk Dealers Association also met there.
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), also known as the Wobblies, rented Washington Hall for a meeting and benefit dance on February 26, 1920. Seattle businessman Broussais Coman Beck (1886-1936) hired spies to observe and report on Seattle labor movements. According to a "Labor spy report by Agent No. 17" the event raised 200 dollars "for the defense of the members of the I.W.W. who are in jail" ("Labor Spy Report ...").
World War II
Between 1935 and 1939, Washington Hall was rented by such organizations as the Japanese Civic League, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, a "Japanese Orchestra," Ohayama Junior Club, the Japanese Gentlemen's Club, "Japanese Restaurant Workers," the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the Taiyo Girls Club and Taiyo Debating Club, the Northwest American Japanese Association, and the Japanese Baptist Church. Individual names, perhaps those of people planning parties or meetings, appear in the Lodge No. 29 ledger: Arai Sakai, Kerry Kagashima, Daj Hirashima, and Y. Yoshi.
Following the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, the JACL announced plans to hold an "Americanism Rally" at Washington Hall ("Young Japanese ..."). Under JACL sponsorship, Japanese American Seattle residents formed an emergency defense council to work with Seattle's Municipal Defense Council, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other defense agencies. This emergency defense council was comprised of five committees: Red Cross, civilian defense, general welfare, sale of defense bonds, and an FBI committee.
Soon after, the site of the "Americanism Rally" became the site of evacuation registrations. On May 5, 1942, The Seattle Daily Times reported that "Seattle Japanese" were to respond to the evacuation order by coming to register at Washington Hall and that "The Japanese in the Seattle area -- about 1,150 of them -- will be taken to the assembly center on the Western Washington Fair grounds at Puyallup" ("King County ...").
Wartime fundraising events at the hall often involved dances. For example, the Croatian Fraternal Union held a benefit dance for the Red Cross in January 1942, and the women's auxiliary of the Burgos Lodge No. 10, Caballeros de Dimas-Alang, held a dance in September 1943 "to aid the war effort of Filipinos in the Seattle area."
Although the number and frequency of recorded rentals dropped somewhat during the 1942-1945 war years, Washington Hall remained a busy place. Events at the building included meetings of the Bataan Lodge, the Circle of Serbian Sisters, Progressive Colored Youth, the Seattle chapter of the NAACP, Serbian National Defense, American Youth for Democracy, and the Communist Party. Robert Staermose, a member of the Danish Parliament and "a refugee from his German-occupied homeland," presented a lecture at the hall on April 24, 1945 ("Danish Refugee ..."). During the same month, the American Committee for a Free Yugoslavia rescheduled a dance to raise relief funds because of the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) on April 12, 1945. Other rentals that year included the National Negro Congress and the Filipino American Zamora Lodge.
On November 15, 1947, Mike Masaoka of Washington, D.C., Director of the JACL Anti-Discrimination League and a consultant to President Truman's civil rights committee, presented a report on efforts to combat discrimination against Japanese Americans. Seattle's Japanese American Citizens League booked the event at Washington Hall.
Communist and Socialist Organizations
Socialist or Communist organizations appear in the Lodge No. 29 rental records frequently over several decades. The Finnish Socialist Club rented meeting space in February, March, April, and May of 1917. Even while the national political climate changed, Washington Hall remained open to all. In October 1951 the Socialist Workers Party sponsored a lecture by Myra Tanner Weiss titled "The Outlook for America: Lessons of the Korean War" (Seattle Times, October 17, 1951).
The following October, the N.W. Citizens Defense Committee rented the building for a rally in support of people charged under the Alien Registration Act of 1940 (18 United States Code 2385, better known as the Smith Act). In addition to providing for the registration and fingerprinting of resident aliens, this federal statute declared it unlawful to belong to, teach, or advocate the forceful overthrow of any government in the United States. Eleven communists were convicted under the act in 1951. The Washington Committee for Protection of the Foreign Born, the Socialist Workers party, and the Communist Party continued to rent the building for lectures and meetings during the 1950s. Joe North, reporter for The People's World, presented his report "What I Saw in Cuba" at a public lecture in March 1959.
Use of the building by Communist groups went neither unnoticed nor unchallenged. The United States Congress House Committee on Un-American Activities published a report noting the occasion of a "Meeting on March 6, 1954, at Washington Hall sponsored by the Washington State Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born, in honor of Abner Green, executive secretary of the American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born" (Communist Political Subversion). The documentation of this meeting became part of the information presented in hearings on "Communist Political Subversion" in 1957.
A 1995 University of Washington School of Architecture master's thesis by Andrew A. Phillips includes an interview with Ingeborg Kisbye, a former caretaker of the building, which illustrates divergence of opinion among the Danish Brotherhood:
"Ms. Ingeborg Kisbye, the caretaker from 1954-70, remembers renting Washington Hall to a radical Communist Finnish organization and later to the Black Panthers. 'The (Danish) Brotherhood did not always approve of these groups using the hall,' she remembers. Other places, however, barred them and they did provide a reliable income" (Phillips, 18).
The Lodge No. 29 regular meeting on May 11, 1960, included discussion of a letter from Supreme Trustee Kristian Jorgensen, "in which Brother Jorgensen stated his opposition to the management of Lodge No. 29 renting the Washington Hall to the Communist Party for their annual May Day Rally that was held the evening of April 29, 1960. Bro. Jorgensen and Bro. Jens Nielsen expressed their opposition to this rental verbally at this meeting of the Lodge" (minutes, May 11, 1960). Following further discussion and a motion, the Building Committee stated that it would work with attorney Joseph R. Matsen to prepare a rental application that "could be effectively used in seeing that the Communist Party did not secure the use of Washington Hall in the future" (minutes, May 11, 1960).
The Danish Brotherhood did not make public statements about political matters. During the September 13, 1973, regular meeting, a member asked if the group would issue a public response to news of Danish director Jens Jeorgen Thorsen's plans to direct a sexually explicit film titled The Loves of Jesus Christ. The discussion concluded with the comment that "... according to our by-laws we cannot speak on political or religious subjects" (minutes, September 13, 1973).
Organizations with left wing or socially progressive philosophies continued to rent Washington Hall following its purchase by the Sons of Haiti in the 1970s. During the 1980s, the Seattle Coalition Against Apartheid held public-education forums and arts presentations there, and the San Francisco Mime Troupe brought its political theater to the Washington Hall stage.
But by the late 1960s, many of the ethnic, cultural, and civic clubs and associations that rented Washington Hall earlier in the twentieth century had purchased property of their own or chose to use other locations. The frequency and types of rentals changed accordingly.
Children of God and the Jesus People Movement at Washington Hall
In 1971 an evangelical Christian sect, the Jesus People Army, appears to have rented most of Washington Hall -- including the boardinghouse, where about 50 members lived communally. Following an ideological schism within Seattle's Jesus People movement, Linda Meissner, at one time an influential member of the Jesus People, left the group -- and her family -- and moved into Washington Hall. Soon the Jesus People left Washington Hall and the building became the Northwest headquarters of the Children of God, a Texas-based street ministry that emphasized personal "witnessing," distributing tracts, and communal living.
Some members adopted new names such as 'Comfort.' Another 150 members lived at a training camp in Burlington, Washington. The group's "Overseers" said that the Children of God had more than 2,000 members around the world. Many members surrendered their personal property and spent their days witnessing to people as part of a street ministry. Jeremy Spencer, a former member of Fleetwood Mac, performed on Washington Hall's stage on September 24, 1971. Spencer joined the sect while on a tour of the United States (Ruppert, "Who Are They?").
When young people who joined the sect stopped communicating with their families, anxious parents expressed concerns that hypnosis, brainwashing or drugs, not religious devotion, were the true reasons for their children's behavior (Ruppert, "Who Are They?"). Public concern escalated following the publication of Seattle Times articles. On October 19, 1971, the Children of God allowed the public into Washington Hall for an open house, but tensions remained.
On Halloween, a group of between 75 and 100 parents gathered at Washington Hall for a press conference organized by Lt. Cdr. W. M. Rambur, described by The Seattle Times as "a high-school teacher from Chula Vista, Calif. who lost his son in combat in Viet Nam and a daughter to the Children of God" (Ruppert, "Worried Parents ..."). Ted Baxter, a staff member for then-California Governor Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), was also present: "Rambur said Reagan had given invaluable support in the organization of a Parents Committee to Free Our Sons and Daughters from the Children of God Organization" (Ruppert, "Worried Parents ...").
Linda Meissner made a surprise appearance and answered questions from angry parents, denying that members were drugged; to the contrary, she said that the Children of God had successfully helped young people to stop using drugs. Incidents such as a police visit to inquire after the whereabouts of a missing 21-year-old mother, a recent convert who left with her three-year-old-child, drew more unfavorable attention to Washington Hall. King County Prosecutor Christopher T. Bayley told the Times in November that his office was observing the Children of God for possible criminal activity; a few former members had told police that they were held at Washington Hall against their will, and some wanted their personal property returned (Corsaletti). By this time about 100 members were living in Washington Hall.
John Salvesen and Maurice Cline, both members of the Jesus People movement, arrived at Washington Hall on December 3rd with a group of other Jesus People members and "demanded that the Children of God religious sect quit the premises" because the group's actions were harmful to young people (Ruppert, "Opponents ..."). In August 1971, Cline and Salvesen had signed a lease (under the name Youth Outreach, Inc.) with the Danish Brotherhood for $400 a month. Salvesen was also the estranged husband of Linda Meissner, the former Jesus People leader who now had a prominent leadership role in the Children of God (Meissner was in Europe on a preaching mission at the time). The Children of God refused to admit the Jesus People. Salvesen, a Seattle Fire Department firefighter, spoke with police at the scene to confirm that he had a legal right to enter and broke down the door.
Shoshannim, an Overseer of the Children of God, attempted to prevent the group from entering. A brief scuffle between Shoshannim and Salvesen ensued, captured by Seattle Times photographer Greg Gilbert. Police ended the confrontation. An Elder named Eli locked the office. Salvesen broke into the office after being denied entry. While Eli made a phone call, Salvesen and Meissner's former secretary, Linda Carver, searched for files and a mailing list belonging to the Jesus People, separating the documents from those of the Children of God; eventually Eli joined them in their task. Eli's phone call brought Robert Czeisler of the American Civil Liberties Union to the building; he remained to observe and note any violations of the Children of God's rights. Cline and Salvesen summoned their attorney to Washington Hall, and it was determined that they were "within their rights in seeking to gain possession of the property" (Ruppert, "Opponents ...").
An eviction notice posted December 4 gave the Children of God six to 12 days to vacate. Salvesen expressed his concerns to the press about $2,500 in unpaid bills owed by the Children of God and the missing Jesus People mailing list (Ruppert, "Notice Posted ..."). The Jesus People attempted to renegotiate the lease with the Children of God (Ruppert, "Children of God Cut Back ..."). By January 23, 1972, The Seattle Daily Times reported, "The Children of God seem to be phasing themselves out. The sect is moving out of Washington Hall and is cutting the staff of a training camp at Burlington, Skagit County, to no more than 50 members" (Johnsrud).
Sale to the Sons of Haiti
The neighborhood surrounding Washington Hall underwent significant changes in ethnic composition over the years. The neighborhood was the site of a significant 1969-1974 Model Cities program project encompassing multifamily housing and the purchase and conversion of the former Chevra Bikur Cholim Synagogue into what would become the Langston Hughes Cultural Center, later known as the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. As early as 1960 the Lodge formed a Relocation Committee to find a new location for meetings and activities. Lodge No. 29 meeting minutes from that year also mention an aging membership base and efforts to recruit new members through cultural organizations such as the folk dance group Danelag.
Lodge No. 29's meeting minutes report that officers of the Swedish Club desired to "meet with representatives of Lodge No. 29 in order to accomplish a closer relationship ... The Swedish Club is now open to all Scandinavians for membership" (minutes, June 27, 1960). During the same meeting members discussed selling the building -- perhaps looking for a new hall in a "better location" instead of renting space in the Swedish Club. By the late 1960s it appears that the Danish Brotherhood conducted most of its activity away from the changing neighborhood, holding events at the Northwest Danish Home and the Swedish Club.
Washington Hall remained in use by numerous lessees, but the treasurer explained at the June 2, 1971, regular meeting that Washington Hall was no longer making money. Rentals produced income, but funds also flowed out to pay bills. Various parties expressed interest in purchasing the building between 1969 and 1973, and the Building Committee of Lodge No. 29, led by Svend Nielsen, began to consider offers. Proposed uses of the building included a youth center and "a school for retarded children," as recorded during the May 1970 meeting (minutes, May 1970).
In April 1973, Most Worshipful Sons of Haiti Grand Lodge No. 1 of Pasco, an African American Masonic Lodge, purchased Washington Hall on agreed terms of $5,000 down and "the balance of $370 per month and interest at 7 [and] 1/2 percent" (minutes, May 2, 1973). The Sons of Haiti made final payment on Washington Hall in early 1999.
Continuing Importance to Diverse Seattle Communities
At a public meeting held on January 7, 2009, the City of Seattle's Landmarks Preservation Board approved designation of Washington Hall as a Seattle Landmark. The Sons of Haiti sold the building to Historic Seattle for $1.5 million on June 11 of that year. 4Culture and Historic Seattle each contributed $250,000 toward the purchase. Washington Hall began functioning as a joint project of 4Culture and Historic Seattle, and Historic Seattle started renovating the building in three phases. The wooden garages once used by the Danish Brotherhood to generate income (netting $9 in parking rental and fees during 1935) were torn down many years ago; as of 2014, some parking spaces were used by the neighboring Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, located at 105 14th Avenue at Yesler Way, through an arrangement with Historic Seattle. During the 1970s, the Sons of Haiti added a concrete entrance ramp to the 14th Avenue entrance, improving disability access to the building; the installation of an elevator was scheduled for completion in 2014.
As of 2014 Washington Hall housed three arts organizations acting as anchor groups with Historic Seattle. 206 Zulu is an internationally recognized coalition that engages youth, low-income people, and people of color in social change through innovative programs involving hip-hop music, arts, and culture. Hidmo is a network of artists, educators, and activists that nurture community and elevate the visibility of independent art, music, media, and culture through all-ages programming, coalition building, and leadership development. Voices Rising is an intergenerational showcase of queer/LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) performers of color that provides support for local up-and-coming artists through mentorship opportunities.
The building's wood-paneled former library, once the site of political and cultural gatherings representing a mosaic of national origins, philosophies, and goals, now functions as shared office and meeting space.