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St. James Catholic Church

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The church served as the seat of the bishop until 1907.


Circa ~ 1885


204 W. 12th St., Vancouver
Directions to the St. James Catholic Church.

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St. James Catholic Church



St. James Catholic Church dominates the skyline of downtown Vancouver, Washington. The degree of ornamentation and sophistication in this, the first cathedral in Washington Territory, is remarkable. The church was completed in 1885 when Vancouver was essentially a frontier town. Its architecture was an astonishing contrast to the rude wood buildings surrounding it. Only the Providence Academy, built by Mother Joseph twelve years earlier, could compete with its imposing presence, and that structure was located several blocks to the east. The lack of technology, the primitive condition of the marketplace, and the distance from other centers of culture and production make the building of this cathedral significant.

St. James Cathedral is historically significant for its association with the development of Vancouver and the establishment of the Catholic community in the Pacific Northwest. The church represented a culmination of church activities with several figures important in the history of the region including Bishop A.M.A. Blanchet, who initiated the project, and Mother Joseph, who is credited with part of the design. 

The completed structure was a surprisingly academic example of the Victorian Gothic Revival and the first masonry Gothic church in the territory. The church served as the seat of the bishop until 1907 when the bishop moved to Seattle. Since that time, the church has served the Vancouver community as a center of Catholic worship and social activity. Today, the church continues to retain excellent exterior and interior integrity.

  • Listed on the Washington Heritage Register 1986.
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