Sixth and Burnside Building

History Book
History Book
History Book

In the year 1922, after holding services for fourteen years in the building at Front and Burnside, there was again a need for larger quarters to accommodate the growing congregation. That same year, the city began considering plans for a new Burnside bridge, which eventually would necessitate tearing down the Front and Burnside mission. It became imperative to secure another location. However, the church people wanted to stay in the downtown area and there did not seem to be any place to rent. Florence Crawford told them, “We will have to be sure that we know the mind of God in this. Do pray—fast and pray—that we will move according to the will of God.” Their prayers were answered, and after much investigation, a promising solution was found.

The property at Northwest Sixth and Burnside, between the uptown business section and the skid row district, was an ideal site on which to build a mission.

In the downtown district of Portland, an old pioneer’s estate was for sale—a quarter of a city block, at the intersection of Northwest Sixth Avenue and Burnside Street. It was an ideal location, halfway between the uptown business section and the skid row district, a good site on which to build a mission.

The price of the property alone was $150,000, and construction costs for the new headquarters building would be added to that. This was not a small financial undertaking, and would have been staggering to the small and comparatively poor congregation had they not been rich in faith.

Before the new site could be procured, members made donations totaling over $8,000 as a token of their faith. Some pledged to pay a certain amount each month to help finance the project. Others offered time and labor to the building project.

Once the property purchase was finalized, the corner at Sixth and Burnside became a beehive of activity. On the last day of February, 1922, workmen began tearing down the frame buildings formerly used as saloons, theaters, and cheap rooming houses. Within two months, the plot had been cleared, the basement excavated, and the foundation poured. Tradesmen in the congregation did most of the construction work. Some of the men worked all day; others came after their day’s work elsewhere and helped in the evening. One of the members—a retired businessman and structural engineer—supervised the project.

In 1922, work began on a new headquarters building. Clearing the lot of existing buildings was the first step. Then the construction work began.

The building began to take on a finished appearance when bricklayers put up the exterior face of the building. Raymond Crawford remarked, “It brought joy to my heart when on May 1, 1922, at 8 o’clock in the morning, I was privileged to lay the first brick. Forty days later, June 9, Mother laid the last brick. That was truly a time of thanksgiving! The ministry and workmen together bowed their heads and Mother prayed that a soul would be saved for every brick laid.”

Raymond Crawford lays the first brick of the headquarters building at Northwest Sixth and Burnside Street. At left in the photo is Newt Lesher, a bricklayer and an early convert who came into the Gospel in Oakland, California.

The women of the church also contributed, preparing and serving meals to the workers in an old frame building at the rear of the lot. Often they served as many as seventy-five or eighty workmen at one meal.

Much of the work on the new building was accomplished by volunteers who were members of the congregation.

After six months of intensive labor, the work was finished and passed inspection by the city officials. The attractive new headquarters church was a two-story 100 by 100 foot building. The exterior of the building was of red brick with trim of white brick. The first floor included ten rental spaces that were initially occupied by shops, offices, and restaurants. Other rooms on the ground floor were designated as the headquarters office, the mailing and printing departments, and a prayer chapel. On the second floor was the spacious church auditorium with a platform at one end.

On August 27, 1922, the new headquarters was dedicated. The auditorium, with a seating capacity of 1,000, appeared spacious compared to the former places of worship. In spite of its size, 200 extra chairs had to be brought in at the opening service to accommodate the overflow crowd.

The already well-known sign, “Jesus the Light of the World,” was moved from the Front and Burnside mission to its new location at Sixth and Burnside. Shining fifty feet above the building, and topped by a brilliant star, the sign blazed forth its message from the heart of the city for more than sixty years.

The interior of the headquarters building at Sixth and Burnside before the wall was moved in 1930.

One time, a reporter from a local newspaper asked if anyone had ever been converted because of the sign. The answer was affirmative. Over the years, people who became born-again Christians after they “followed” that star have given testimonies in Apostolic Faith services.

One man wrote from North Carolina that when he visited Portland, he had observed the sign, and had asked a police officer, “What is under that sign?” The officer told him, “Oh, it is a church group. I think they publish a little paper.” The man came down the street to the church, found the literature rack near the front door, and took a copy of the paper. He went back to his home in North Carolina, and the next Sunday, he gave his life to the Lord as a result of what he read in that “little” Gospel paper.

For many years, a “traveling” sign with moving words traversing a framework fifty feet in length was also on top of the building, and it delivered short Gospel messages to the city below. Due to a slight curve in Sixth Avenue, from the downtown section of the city the church appeared to sit squarely in the middle of the street. The “Jesus sign,” with the star above it, and the traveling sign below it, became a well-known landmark in the city sky.

The newly completed headquarters building, with the “Jesus the Light of the World” sign above it.