History buff? Here’s a slice of Friday Harbor history that is a short walk from your accommodations at Harrison House Suites. This building, located on First Avenue overlooking the harbor, has served as a gathering place for the people of Friday Harbor since 1890.
The building was originally a Methodist Episcopal Church, erected by circuit rider minister Reverend Andrew Jackson McNamee and some of the locals. It took them four months to build. Until very recently, not much was known about McNamee, but research conducted at the San Juan Historical Museum has revealed this quiet man who chose to walk his circuits rather than ride them, built fifteen churches and parsonages in Washington state during his 25 year career with the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1924, McNamee published a book about his adventures, “Brother Mack The Frontier Preacher.”
McNamee turned the church over to several other ministers who conducted weddings, women’s guild meetings, Sunday School, and many sermons until about 1917, when the Methodist Episcopal Church folded in Friday Harbor. The church was used as storage for a few years; in 1925 the Women’s Study Club bought the building, and for the next fifty years was the home to meetings that included lectures from scientists and adventure minded explorers, fund raising for community issues, and a place where Friday Harbor women could have intellectual conversations, share experiences, and contribute to the community.
In 1975, the Study Club sold the building to the San Juan Island Grange. The church-clubhouse-meeting place has been through many revisions and restructuring. Even today, there is construction underway to add a back deck to the structure to enable the Grange to offer more event space. 1890 – 2015: 125 years of community. Thank you Reverend McNamee!