Subsequent Plans, Additions, and Renovations (1952–today)

Audio version read by Christine Szabadi. (Transcript below)


The "Detlie Plan" and renovations of 1950s & 1960s. (Click to enlarge.)
Century II (1996–1997)
Living Stones (2017–2018)


Station 4: Additions and Renovation

Location: McCaw Chapel (behind the glass & steel screen)

As soon as Dean Leffler took up his post in 1951, he and the Saint Mark’s community set about making a plan to turn the unfinished concrete box into a cathedral that Seattle could be proud of. Modernist architect John Detlie (later an Oscar-nominated set designer in Hollywood) was engaged in the visioning process. For the princely sum of $25,000, Detlie created a large and detailed architectural model which used the bones of the unfinished building to create a midcentury modern fantasy.

Once again, though, the grand plans of the community did not quite match their financial resources. Detlie’s plan was never realized, but it did become the basis for the Cathedral House semicircular addition to the west end of the building—containing Bloedel Hall, the kitchen, parish offices, classrooms and meeting rooms—which opened in 1959.

A later revision of Detlie’s design was the basis for more renovations in the 1960s, which saw the replacement of the east facade and the creation of the current narthex and organ loft, along with a new freestanding altar.

The process of dreaming and re-visioning continued in the 1980s under Leffler’s successors Cabby Tennis and Fred Northup, and culminated just as the parish of Saint Mark’s reached its 100-year anniversary. The “Century II” capital campaign realized Seattle architect Jim Olson’s radical reshaping of the worship space: walls were removed to open up the space, the altar was moved forward onto a free-standing platform closer to the congregation, and most prominently, this renovation added the massive glass and steel screen with its great doors and iconic rose window.

By the time that the seventh and current Dean, Steve Thomason, arrived, the still-unclad exposed concrete on the north- and south-facing exterior walls had begun to disintegrate and a capital campaign to solve the structural and aesthetic issues of the exterior was unavoidable. The most recent renovation project, completed in 2018, also included the addition of an elevator for better accessibility and the installation of sturdier, insulated windows.

The community of Saint Mark’s no longer uses the language of “completing” the cathedral. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the building’s story, being “unfinished” is now a core part of what the building is. What was for earlier generations an emblem of hubris and thwarted ambition, the cathedral has ended up as something unique, and special, and meaningful. The building has been transformed through love.

The tour continues as we continue clockwise around the nave; the next station is to your left as you leave McCaw chapel.

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