Wilshire United Methodist Church
Allison & Allison – 1925
4350 Wilshire Boulevard – map
When it was announced in January 1923 that the Wilshire Congregational Church would get a home of its own at the corner of Wilshire and Plymouth, Carleton Monroe Winslow, whose most current project was the city’s new Central Library, was the architect. Plans called for a $500,000, Spanish/Colonial complex of three units around a central patio with the church’s main entrance facing Plymouth. However, Winslow’s plans were scrapped, and the team of Allison & Allison was brought in. (Don’t feel to bad for Winslow. He also worked on St Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral (HCM No. 66) and went on to design St Mary of the Angels Church (HCM No. 136).)
James and David Allison’s works are all over the list of the city’s Historic-Cultural Monuments, including the 13th Church of Christ, Scientist (No. 559), the Irving Branch Library (No. 307), and the Southern California Edison Building (No. 347). They’re also famous for a bunch of buildings at UCLA, the Beverly Hills Post Office, and high schools in Burbank, Palo Alto, and Santa Monica.
The Allisons used several styles on the steel and concrete church, but mostly Romanesque on the outside and Gothic on the inside. For the façade and 140-foot tower, the team was inspired by Brescia’s Church of St Francis in Italy and the La Giralda in Sevilla, Spain.
A shot of the inside.
Born in Cornwall, England, in 1875, emigrating to the U.S. in 1892, Dr Frank Dyer founded the Wilshire Congregational Church in 1921, the year he moved to Los Angeles from Tacoma, WA. From the get-go, he decreed his church would strive to be non-sectarian, a stance that would continue to rankle the Congregational Church fathers.
Construction began at the end of October 1924 with McDonald & Driver winning the spot of general contractors. When the church opened on May 24th the next year, the congregation of 550 members had room to spare in the auditorium built for 1,400. By this time, Dyer had brought in a co-pastor to share his load, Kansas City clergyman Dr Charles Frederick Aked.
Officials broke ground early October in 1926 for two new units – Gunsaulus Hall, named for Dr Frank W. Gunsaulus, a Chicago minister who had died about five years earlier, and a church school/gymnasium.
The Reverend Dyer was controversial to say the least, unpopular with church elders and co-workers alike. In 1925, Dr Aked left the congregation, later calling Dyer an “ingrained liar, a man of savage passion, ruthless selfishness and acting in bad faith.” Dyer’s subsequent co-pastor, Dr Thomas B. Harper, also split on bad terms with Dyer.
Now, if charges such as playing jazz in the church and, worse, supporting the ACLU, weren’t enough for the Congregational Church to take action, the feces hit the fan when, in the spring of 1928, in order to raise $50,000 to stave off foreclosure, Dyer announced Jack Dempsey would take part in a charity bout. In just a few weeks, nearly all of the 110 pastors and delegates of the Los Angeles Congregational Association voted to find Dyer guilty of “conduct unbecoming a minister, misrepresentation of facts and responsibility for bringing disgrace on the denomination by sanctioning a boxing bout to raise money for church indebtedness.” Dyer vowed to continue to fight for his preaching gig and the church he founded seven years earlier, even after being ousted with Dr Thomas Harper being called back for pastor duties.
From LAPL.org, a shot of whom I'd bet dollars to donuts is Dr Dyer.
Dyer’s battle was a futile one, though. In May 1929, 150 members of the All Souls’ Church voted to take over the Wilshire and Plymouth church in a sale involving more than $300,000. Up until that time, All Souls’ Church had no buildings, holding its services in theaters. Oh. All Souls’ minister was Dyer’s old co-pastor, Dr Aked.
Dr Frank Dyer went on to preach and write in the Los Angeles area until his death in 1963 at the age of 88.
Widening Wilshire in the late 1920s, also from LAPL.org.
All Souls’ tenure in the church building was short-lived, too. Aked announced his resignation at the end of 1930 when the buildings were put up for sale. In the fall of 1934, the Wilshire Methodist Episcopal Church moved in, leaving its home at Hobart Boulevard and Second Street. (The Wilshire Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1907 as the Hobart Methodist Church. In 1927, it merged with the Westlake Methodist Church, itself having merged with the Simpson Methodist Episcopal Church in 1910. A final merger in 1973 with Trinity Methodist Church created the newly-named Wilshire United Methodist Church. I think some sort of family tree is needed here.)
A monument to the church's history.
Today, Wilshire United Methodist Church is made up of four ministries: Korean, Filipino, English, and Hispanic, with the first two autonomous.
According to the Church’s website, there used to be a parsonage on Lucerne Boulevard and a parish house that were torn down to make way for Ritter Chapel (named for Fred Ritter), the Children’s Educational Chapel (1951), and a parking lot addition.
The Children's Educational Chapel (1951).
And, now, the important stuff.
Actress Ethel Shannon married screenwriter Joseph Jackson here on April 10, 1927. Dyer presided.
Reginald Denny was best man when Laura La Plante married William Seiter here.
Jeanette MacDonald and Gene Raymond got hitched here on June 16, 1937. Nelson Eddy sang, Basil Rathbone and Harold Lloyd were ushers, and Fay Wray and Ginger Rogers were maids of honor. (Thanks for the information.)
In September of 1945, John Agar hit the jackpot when he married Shirley Temple at the church. She was seventeen.
To Open Church in Hotel. Los Angeles Times; 12/31/21
Church Plans Are Indorsed [sic] Los Angeles Times; 1/28/23
Will Launch Church Drive Los Angeles Times; 3/18/23
Church Edifice is Commenced Los Angeles Times; 11/2/24
Wilshire Church to Open Los Angeles Times; 5/23/25
New Units of Church Under Way Los Angeles Times; 10/4/2
Church Issues Plea for Help Los Angeles Times; 4/30/28
Dr. Dyer Will Face Charges Los Angeles Times; 5/27/28
Ministers Vote Dr. Dyer Guilty Los Angeles Times; 6/8/28
Dr. Dyer Will Keep Up Fight Los Angeles Times; 6/13/28
Church to be Taken Over Los Angeles Times; 5/23/29
Costly Church for Sale Los Angeles Times; 12/30/30
Buildings Acquired by Church Los Angeles Times; 9/30/34
Dr. Frank Dyer, Veteran L.A. Churchman, Dies Los Angeles Times; 9/14/63
Actress Ready for Her Nuptials Los Angeles Times; 11/11/26
Up next: Evans Residence