TACOMA, Wash. — Members from the Holy Rosary Church in Tacoma learned Saturday their place of worship will be demolished. The iconic church has been closed since last fall due to “significant safety issues.”
Helen McClenahan, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Seattle, said safety issues and the total cost of $18 million in repairs was the reason for the permanent closure.
The nearly 100-year-old church initially closed in October after a 5-foot-by-5-foot piece of ceiling plaster fell on the choir loft. Mass and other services have been held in an auditorium next to the church since November.
The Archdiocese said it spent more than 800 hours with contractors analyzing and examining the church. The demolition was recommended by an advisory team.
According to Canon Law, it is the responsibility of the church and its parishes to maintain and take care of the building. The Archdioceses said it does not have the funds to pay for the significant repairs, leaving the burden of costs onto the church members.
“It is clear that the costs to fully repair, restore, and maintain Holy Rosary Church are simply unaffordable. Therefore, after a great deal of prayer and wide consultation, I have decided to issue a decree to close and raze the church building,” Archbishop J. Peter Sartain said in a letter to parishioners.
Locals have gathered at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary for more than 125 years for Mass, funerals and, weddings.
The original wooden church built by German immigrants is long gone. Its masonry replacement, which was completed in 1920 and has a blue interior and a 210-foot steeple, became a Tacoma landmark.
Tim Faker was one of several parishioners who left Saturday’s service frustrated by the decision not just to close the church, but to demolish it as well.
“I was married in this church. I had aunts and uncles attend this church before I was born, and this school. My history here goes way back,” Faker said. “It’s a crime. I think this is an iconic structure of faith that you will not see repeated.”
McClenahan said it’s important to remain a tight-knit community during difficult times like this.
“We’re focused on the community here and making sure that we keep them in our prayers, and that we’re really focused on the meaning behind this church,” McClenahan said. “This is a sad day for everybody.”
The church underwent its last major renovation work in 1994. That work included a new $500,000 copper roof for the steeple.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.