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Monday, January 4, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Landmark Comes Tumbling Down -- Office To Replace Steepled Building And Its Checkered History

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

It was a familiar landmark with a steeple and a long, checkered past, but few among the many who stopped to watch its demolition yesterday mourned its passing.

"I've been looking at it for 30 years," said a motorist who stopped to observe the structure as it was being torn down. "I'm glad they're wrecking it. It's derelict."

A new office building, new owners, and a new start will replace the building at 1900 Boren Ave. that has been a church, a dance hall and a drug house in its many incarnations.

It was built in 1906 and served for more than 35 years as a Methodist church.

Then it was bought by a Redmond man who used it during the '50s as a warehouse for retail women's clothing. In the '60s, it was a dance hall called the BFD. And still later, it was rented to the Seattle Indian Center.

In 1977, a man named George Freeman rented the building, named it The Monastery, and turned it into a club for teenagers.

In its heyday, the nightclub, which still looked like a church from the outside, was packed with as many as six hundred 11- to 18-year-olds and it came to be known as a place where runaways could disappear, where teens could find alcohol and drugs of all sorts, and where adults could find children willing to have sex for a price.

"I think it brought me down," said one young man who testified during a civil trial that the club was a nuisance and that he had been lured into sex and drugs there. "I got tied up in it and then it devoured me."

It was closed in 1985 after undercover police, acting on tips from concerned parents, found numerous violations of drug, liquor and prostitution laws. Freeman was barred from ever opening a discotheque similar to The Monastery in Washington state.

There was an arson in the abandoned building after the club closed and it was several years before the building was reopened as a church once again.

The Bright and Morning Star Baptist Church's pastor said he tried valiantly to overcome the building's history, providing child care during the day and charitable care to the hungry and homeless at night. But in 1993 the church closed its doors for lack of funding.

The property's newest owner, Dollar Development, plans to build an office building on the spot.

The owner of Building Busters, the demolition company, isn't sorry to see it go. It has fallen into disrepute and disrepair over the years, Joe Anderson says. But he recognizes it as a moment of Seattle history.

"Everybody knows that building," Anderson said. "She's been quite a building for a lot of years."

Christine Clarridge's phone message number is 206-464-8983. Her e-mail address is: cclarridge@seattletimes.com

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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