In 1891, one of Seattle Pacific University’s founders, Nils B. Peterson, made a gift of five acres of uncultivated land on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle for the new school. “I’ll give a lot of land for a building site, 210 by 344 feet — and more when the Lord has need of it,” said Peterson at a June 20, 1891, meeting of the fledgling Oregon and Washington Conference of the Free Methodist Church.
After discussion about whether the gift of land should be sold so that 500 acres could be purchased in Oregon to locate the school, a unanimous vote affirmed Seattle as the site for the school.
The spirit of excitement that surrounded the action to open a school on land in Seattle matched the general mood at the opening of the last decade of the 19th century. Seattle and the Puget Sound area was in the midst of a boom resulting from the accomplishment of statehood in 1889 and the completion of the continental rail lines.
Ground was broken for Alexander Hall on October 29 of 1891, and the four-story structure was completed in early 1893. The Peterson family’s “garden plot” was now the site of a school destined to graduate more than 40,000 students in the next 123 years.
Explore Early Seattle
Click + to zoom and see where Alexander Hall was built on Queen Anne Hill, and move your cursor to explore early Seattle.
This hand-drawn map by Augustus Koch (courtesy of the Library of Congress) shows a “Birds-Eye View of Seattle and Environs” in 1891, the year of Seattle Pacific University’s founding.