Find quiet contemplation in Issaquah’s Christian Science Reading Room
October 11, 2011
By David Hayes
One of the staples of the Christian Science religion is its reading room.
Usually, it’s a quiet atmosphere that lends to the pursuit of thoughtful prayer, studying Bible lessons, reading Christian literature or investigating the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist.
With the church located on 238th Way Southeast, leaders have long had to rent out space in Issaquah for a reading room to serve its congregation of fewer than 200.
However, Issaquah’s last reading room didn’t have an ideal location for its intended pursuits in the Brandt Building on Front Street, not with its neighbor — The Kaleidoscope School of Music — pursuing its intended purpose.
“There were rock classes and drum lessons going on all the time in our old location,” librarian Chris Fisher said.
In addition, the room was located deep within the building away from the bustle of Front Street North, keeping its activities unknown to those who might have used it.
“I had someone say to me they’d lived in Issaquah for years and didn’t know we had a reading room,” Fisher said.
The new reading room opened in August in its new location at 415 Rainier Blvd. N., a more inviting location, literally — across the street from the “Welcome to Issaquah” sign.
Issaquah Christian Science Church manager Virginia Harris said they purchased the property in October 2008. She added some community members were sad to see the original house, built there in 1917 by the J.J. Lewis family, go.
“We still have the original garage and kept the footprint,” Harris said. “And the design kept a resemblance to the old Craftsman-style home, with its big fireplace and bay windows.”
To give the new reading room that consistent Pacific Northwest feel, the church enlisted the services of architect Nils Finne.
“We’d seen what he did, liked his Northwest look and style,” Harris said. “He completed the vision and we let him do what he does best.”
What he did was design a 1,500-foot open space, with a large, wooden beam traversing the length of its soaring, A-frame ceiling. With no interior walls, other than in the back separating the librarian’s office from the reading areas, there are no obstructions to block the natural light that flows into the space from the wall-to-wall windows and skylights.
Drawing the eye to the exterior is the reflection pool, signifying the welcoming calm awaiting visitors inside.
Fisher said the reading room has audio and visual materials to check out and to purchase. And a rear wall has back issues of the church’s Christian Science Journal and Christian Science Monitor dating back to the turn of the century.
“I have computer catalogs of all the old magazines,” Fisher said. “Sometimes I love to look up a topic and find an article written 10, 20 or 30 years ago and just be amazed how what was written then still applies today.”
She added that the room is open to everyone, whether they’re interested in religious source material or just looking for a quiet spot to flip through the local paper before heading to work.
Fisher works only part time at the new location — volunteers staff it the remainder of hours it’s open. They’re looking to expand hours once a week and on the weekends for those who can utilize the room only after they get off work.
The reading room proved to be a popular destination first during ArtWalk and then the Salmon Days Festival, when Harris estimates more than 200 visitors stopped in.
So far, the comments have been nothing but positive, especially with its central location on Front Street down the road from another downtown landmark.
“Someone said with the library at one end of Front Street and us at the other, it’s like natural bookends,” Fisher said.
David Hayes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 392-6434, ext. 237. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.