Washington Family Church National Cathedral – Washington, D.C. - Atlas Obscura

Washington Family Church National Cathedral

An amazing example of early-20th-century architecture, this church features marble transported from Utah.  


While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was purchasing the empty 16th-street lot on which they planned to build a chapel, several Protestant ministers tried to dissuade the landowner from selling the plot. 

The petition was denied and the land was sold to the church in 1924. Construction on the building began in 1932 under the direction of architect Don Carlos Young Jr., grandson of Brigham Young. Construction was completed and a dedication was given in November 1933.

The final result was a gorgeous structure, sporting a metal and concrete frame, with a facade composed of marble tiles. On close inspection, the building’s central tower appears to be a stripped-down, modern interpretation of the towers and spires of the iconic Salt Lake Temple.

The 16,404 blocks of Birdseye marble used to adorn the building were quarried in Utah and brought, at great cost, to Washington, D.C. The steeple once bore the iconic statue of the angel Moroni, a regular feature on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temples, but rarely found on chapels.

This building served as a meeting house for more than 40 years until it was sold to the Unification Church in 1977. The Unification Church currently owns the building, and it’s now known as the Family Church of Washington D.C. Worship services are held in the sanctuary and the cultural hall is typically utilized by the local Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The building shows a significant amount of wear and tear from acid rain and pollution, although it still bears various markings from its days belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Stained glass windows throughout the church reference various religious motifs. A mosaic found over the door of the church was designed by another grandson of Brigham Young, Mahonri Young, an artist and sculptor whose work can be found in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. 

Know Before You Go

Visiting hours are unclear, though weekends are probably a safe start. If you choose to visit, please ask for a tour and be respectful of the church's beliefs. 

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