Monday, July 9, 2012

Los Angeles' Lost Tiffany Mosaics

This is one of three exquisite favrile glass mosaics that graced Los Angeles for sixty years, but which now reside in Oakland. Oakland! Boy, were we asleep at the wheel.

Well, not asleep. But it just shows what can be lost if a community doesn't make a real effort to save its art and history.

These mosaics, designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, came through the port of Los Angeles (San Pedro) in the 1920s, to be installed in a new church at 813 Hope Street. Each of the three panels was 17 ft. high and 8 ft. wide. Collectively they are titled "Te Deum Laudamus."

Their home? The First United Methodist Church of Los Angeles. This was called the "Million-Dollar Church" when it opened on July 8, 1923--89 years ago yesterday. Generous donations had helped pay down the debt so that nothing was owed on the building. The three mosaics had been gifted as well, and were each valued at $5000.

At left is a close up of the image above, so you can see some of the colors in greater detail.

The church building was sold and razed in the mid-1980s, and the church offered the panels, through an art conservator, to the Lake Merritt United Methodist Church in Oakland, which was constructing a new church. So L.A. lost these gorgeous Tiffany mosaic panels.

A more complete history and many pictures are at the Lake Merritt church website.

But what happened? Why was the building gutted and demolished?

The church fell on hard times, going from a membership of 6,000 to only 400 in the last decade of its existence, according to a Los Angeles Times article in 1983.

A tweet posted by La Angelena @LAHistory alerted me to this story, and that tweet led to a post by BlogDowntown about the Church's July 8 opening. That post has more details about the actual history of the church & congregation.

Here is a picture of the Los Angeles church just before it was demolished. The sign-carrying protesters wanted to save it, but their efforts were unsuccessful. According to a story in the LAT, what was needed was $100,000 to repair and maintain the church...annually.

And it had never been declared an historical monument, which might have bought it some time.

So, the land was sold and the contents were auctioned off, then the church was demolished. The Times article mentions Tiffany leaded glass windows going for up to $575 (that was the top price). Also sold were big chandeliers, oaken doors, and potted palms.

The photo was taken by James Ruebsamen and is part of the LAPL's Herald Examiner collection.

What's at 813 S. Hope now? Parking lot, I think. Next to Y.A.S. Fitness. 

1 comment:

Galpin Honda said...

Gorgeous mosaics indeed. It is a shame that they aren't here in Los Angeles for us to marvel at but in Oakland...