Saturday, August 16, 2008

No. 173 - Welsh Presbyterian Church Building

Welsh Presbyterian Church Building

Welsh Presbyterian Church
1909 – S. Tilden Norton
1153 Valencia Street – map
Declared: 4/20/77

This red brick, Greek Revival church building, situated about three blocks northwest of the Convention Center, celebrates its centennial next September. That is, if it doesn’t crumble away before then.

Welsh Presbyterian Church Building
Welsh Presbyterian Church Building
Welsh Presbyterian Church Building

Around 1906, after a rift between the city’s Orthodox Jews, the newly-formed Sinai Congregation split off from Beth Israel (the Olive Street Shul). The group held services on West Pico, then commissioned Samuel Tilden Norton to design its first synagogue at 12th and Valencia Streets. Costing $30,000, it was dedicated with a ceremony lasting three and a quarter hours (I hope they had seat cushions way back then) on Sunday, September 5, 1909.

Welsh Presbyterian Church Building
Welsh Presbyterian Church Building
The Valencia Street side.

According to a contemporary Los Angeles Times account, the program that summer day included thirty-four numbers (pre-dating Springsteen concerts by sixty-some years). Highlights for the afternoon included J.L. Jonas accepting the building and key from M.S. Kornblum and Edith Jonas, respectively. Mrs A. Granas lit the perpetual lamp, and Mrs Esther Isaacs and Mrs M. Leventhal lit the menorahs. Among other speeches and readings, the dedicatory sermon was delivered and prayer offered by the founder of the new synagogue, Rabbi Isidore Myers. (Myers, born in Australia in 1856, was killed in April 1922 when a pair of cars ran over him at the intersection of Sunset and Alvarado. The father of Carmel and Zion Myers, he was living at nearby 1910 Kent Street at the time of his death.)

The synagogue opened without its permanent seats. Once they were installed, the building held 415 worshippers on the main floor and about 200 in the gallery.

Sinai Congregation Building, 1909
Welsh Presbyterian Church Building
Welsh Presbyterian Church Building
The black and white picture, c. 1909, is from the USC Libraries Digital Archive.

In 1926, when the Sinai congregation moved to its new home on South New Hampshire (Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 91, also the work of S. Tilden Norton), the congregation sold the Valencia building to the Welsh Presbyterian Church, which owns and uses the structure to this day.

Welsh Presbyterian Church Building
Welsh Presbyterian Church Building

You can still see the Stars of David displayed in the building, in the stained glass windows and the ceiling medallion. Unfortunately, the structure is the worse for wear, with broken windows and running cracks in the bricks’ mortar being the most obvious problems. Also, it looks like the building is graffitied on a regular basis. It would be nice if the various congregations in its history could team up and do something nice for the landmark in conjunction with its 100th anniversary next summer. Just let me know when the fund-raising bake sale is.

Welsh Presbyterian Church Building


“Stars Light in Synagogue” The Los Angeles Times; Sep 6, 1909, p. I11

“Noted Rabbi Is Run Down; Is Killed” The Los Angeles Times; Apr 26, 1922, p. II1

Up next: Village Green


Stevechasmar said...

It seems to me that interest in preserving old places of worship is much less keen than in preserving just about any other kind of historic landmark. Why is that?

Floyd B. Bariscale said...

I don't know. At this point, the building's still being used for services by a few congregations, probably not flush with cash. Maybe if it were vacated or sold off there could be a secular conversion as with St Vibiana's.

pasadenaadjacent said...

My guess is that protecting churches becomes a problem because they're under the leadership of their denomination. They tore down a beautiful church at the Madre ? (retreat) in Sierra Madre after the Whittier earthquake. I was stunned as to why the Catholic church was unwilling to repair this elderly structure.

Anonymous said...

I live near this church and I can't wait until this church gets sold to a new owner and converted to other uses. Almost every night, I have to put up with loud music and yelling and screaming from this church.

I have nothing against people practicing their religion, but waking up neighbors at ten o'clock at night is a different matter altogether.