Monday, August 17, 2009

San Pedro's Oldest Church

125-year-old churches are in short supply, at least here in Southern California. It makes sense to preserve the ones we still have, but funds for that are also in short supply. What to do, what to do?

Hey, wouldn't it be neat if a civic-minded neighborhood business, say, oh, a cemetery and memorial park, stepped in to take over the task of restoring a church that's seen 125 summers? If said church has been vandalized and grafitti'd, these benefactors could repaint and repair it. Stained glass windows could be replaced. Such an effort might even inspire other community members to get involved and hey, maybe some of the church's stolen furniture and artifacts would be returned!

Now that would be a really Good Deed, and as we know, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. (thank you, Elphaba.)

The Daily Breeze reports that instead of receiving thanks and praise for volunteering to move the former St. Peter's Episcopal Church to its property and restore it, (deep breath) Green Hills Memorial Park is drowning in bureaucracy, courtesy of the city of Los Angeles (no doubt they have good intentions, but...)

Here's the history of the church in a nutshell...well, not a nutshell. More of a bottom-of-the-Local News-page frame, augmented by info from the church's website:

Old St. Peter's was built in 1883 on Beacon Street between 2nd and 3rd in San Pedro. The church's hand-hewn pews and lectern were carved of redwood. In 1904 the church shuffled off to 10th and Mesa, a move that cost St. Peter's a steeple. The current belfry was built to replace that. After 50 years, the Episcopal congregation built a bigger church, and deconsecrated the old one, carefully moving it to 24th and Grand. The LA City Parks and Recreation Dept took over maintenance at that point, and the church was made into a memorial chapel for the Harbor View Cemetery. (Coincidentally, that graveyard was also officially established in 1883 as the San Pedro Cemetery, though there were some graves at the spot already.)

About 20 years ago the city of Los Angeles decided that they didn't have the staff to maintain the church/chapel, and locked it up. Vandalism ensued. The community banded together, and one year ago, Green Hills Memorial Park stepped forward with the offer to move and preserve the old church, at a cost of up to $300,000. But Los Angeles, instead of paving the way to move the building, is putting up all sorts of road blocks. Boo. Hiss.

Los Angeles city officials concerned with preservation want things done their way, which is not necessarily wrong. But in this case, with a well-funded offer on the table, it seems foolish to let the building sit and deteriorate further.

Big Orange Landmarks has a page on St. Peter's, with lovely pictures.

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