By Eric Brotman
What: Hughes Memorial Stone
Where: Edmonds United Methodist Church, 828 Caspers Street
“The thing about this stone is,” says Edmonds United Methodist Church (EUMC) historian Floyd Barker, “if someone has curiosity, the whole history [of the church] is there in those few words. But you have to go looking.”
Placed beneath an announcement sign on the northeast corner of the church’s front lawn, the stone is currently obscured by foliage taller than that seen in the above photographs. Many people in cars or on foot pass within a few yards of it each week without knowing it exists.
Yet it remains a virtually permanent reminder of how rapidly and emphatically times have changed for the church and the city of Edmonds over the last century.
The Hughes whose name is inscribed on the stone was Matthew Simpson Hughes, the presiding bishop at an Annual Conference of Methodist Episcopal Churches early in the 20th century.
Hughes was contacted in 1907 by the Rev. Mr. Franklin Luce, a retired minister seeking help in expanding Edmonds’ recently established Methodist Episcopal Sunday School.
(Luce was a notable character in his own right. Nine years later, at the age of 93, he would marry a 70-year-old woman and tell a newspaper reporter none of his relatives sanctioned the marriage. “But Rev. Mr. Luce desires companionship during his last days,” the reporter went on to write, “and considers he is old enough to know what he wants.”)
Luce and Hughes concentrated their efforts on the Methodist Episcopal Church that had been built in 1904 on the northwest corner of what is now Fifth and Dayton Streets (currently occupied by a building containing an arcade-like complex of retail shops and services). The three-quarters of an acre of land had been sold to church trustees for $250.
Hughes died in 1920, at a time when the church’s congregation was growing, as was a need to build a larger structure. In late January of 1924, after much fundraising, a groundbreaking ceremony took place for the new church. Construction was completed in July of the same year. The church was named Hughes Memorial Methodist Church in honor of the late bishop.
The Edmonds South-Snohomish County Historical Society describes the appearance of Hughes Memorial Methodist Church as, “Unique in its Spanish mission architecture.”
According to the booklet, “Windows to the Past — The Story of Hughes Memorial Church”: “In later years the church was popularly referred to as ‘The Alamo’ and visitors sometimes asked for ‘The Padre.’”
It was at “The Alamo” the Hughes Memorial cornerstone was installed. Although the Methodist historical thread began at least as far back as 1904, the memorial stone is inscribed with the dates 1907-1924, the early date signifying the year the Methodist Episcopal Sunday School was organized in Edmonds, and the later date noting the establishment of the Hughes Memorial Methodist Church.
Growth continued in the years after World War II. Once again, the size of the congregation and its various activities had become too large for the church. But calls to rebuild and relocate on a comparatively large parcel of land available at Eighth and Caspers were met with resistance by some congregants.
The 1950s in Edmonds were times when fewer people depended on cars, and life was of a slower pace. Churchgoers liked walking to their place of worship. Still, the lack of sufficient parking space in close proximity to the church became increasingly inconvenient.
“A number of people resisted the idea of moving so far out — to ‘east Edmonds on the hill,’ as it was called then,” says the 77-year-old Floyd Barker.
His claim is echoed by 90-year-old Evelyn Yost Ewing of Edmonds. “I remember there was a lot of friction when the decision was made to move the church,” says Ewing. “We lost some of the families, because it upset them so to go out of town.”
Dorothy Redd, 87 and still living in Edmonds, also remembers when the Eighth Avenue and Caspers Street area was called “the hill.” She recalls it was covered with blackberry vines that fed the body before the church was built to feed the spirit. Her neighbor recently told her, “I made many a pie from the blackberries I picked by the Methodist Church [property, prior to the newer church’s construction].”
Redd, who attended services at the older location downtown, in the ’50s, likes the current site. “We have a big parking lot, which is nice,” she says, “because we always had to scramble to find a place to park in downtown Edmonds when the church was there.”
Late in 1959, the first service was held in the newly constructed church. The following year saw the church’s name changed from Hughes Memorial Methodist Church to Edmonds United Methodist Church.
Among the most interesting occurrences associated with the current location took place sometime in the mid- to late 1960s. A church group had met on a Sunday evening for a discussion on dealing with emergencies. The subject was unexpectedly and forcefully underscored that night when a small airplane made an emergency landing in the church parking lot.
Historian Floyd Barker has heard —but lacks documentation to verify the informal claim— that the cornerstone had been placed in the new location, then removed and put into storage when a chapel wing was added to the main building.
The stone was taken from storage and situated beneath the church’s announcement sign when the marquee was installed in 1992.
Barker’s voice fills with emotion as he contemplates the stone’s significance. “What we do here is not only for us,” he says. “It’s for future generations.”