By: Carol Lemlein

Fifteen historic places of worship throughout Santa Monica will be featured in the Santa Monica Conservancy’s annual architectural tour on October 7, 2017. Sacred Places will explore the architectural beauty, history and culture of churches, chapels and a synagogue. Selected for their cultural diversity as well as their historical significance, these sites play an essential role in our City’s history and character.

“If you have been in the vicinity of the sacred – ever brushed against the holy – you retain it more in your bones than in your head; and if you haven’t, no description of the experience will ever be satisfactory.” ~Daniel Taylor, In Search of Sacred Places

The tour includes two churches established 1n 1875, the same year as the land auction which established Santa Monica: First Presbyterian and First United Methodist.  By 1886 they were joined by St. Augustine-By-The-Sea Episcopal and a Catholic parish, forming a cluster of church structures in the new downtown on 3rd and 4th Streets, near Arizona Avenue.

Phillips Chapel, our oldest African American Church, was founded in 1906 and soon occupied a former schoolhouse relocated to its present site in Ocean Park, near the homes of many of our earliest African American residents.  A later and much larger African American church, Calvary Baptist, is also featured on the tour.

The Hispanic parish of Iglesia el Sermon del Monte, affiliated with the Pentecostal Assemblies of God, conducts Sunday bilingual services.  Originally established in a small storefront mission on Lincoln Blvd. in Venice, the church relocated in 1973 to Ocean Park, where it occupies a former Baptist Church with magnificent stained glass windows.  Another predominantly Latino congregation, the St. Anne Church, and Shrine feature a beautiful outdoor shrine first created in the 1950s.

St Anne
St Anne Church and Shrine, photo by Judy Raffel 

The Unitarian Universalist Community Church was founded in 1927 by a group seeking socially and politically liberal ideas in their place of worship. They selected Santa Monica’s famed architect John Byers to design a warm and intimate space for their gatherings. Santa Monica’s oldest synagogue, Beth Shir Shalom, was formed in 1939 during the Holocaust years.  

A less familiar faith is found in downtown Santa Monica, where St. Peter and St. Paul Coptic Orthodox is a church deeply rooted in the teachings of St. Mark the Apostle, who brought Christianity to the Egyptians in 37 A.D.

The tour is self-driving and great for biking. It is suggested that guests download this map to elect a check-in location and plan their tour, as time may not permit visiting all 15 locations.  At check-in, you will receive a wristband and a detailed brochure. All ages welcome.

Tickets may be purchased on the Conservancy website  or at the check-in locations on the day of the tour.  Tickets are $25 for members and $30 for the public. Members of the site congregations and of the Santa Monica History Museum will also receive a special discounted rate.  Tickets purchased at check-in will be $30 for members and $35 for the public.

Angel Gabriel

List of Tour Sites:

  1. First Presbyterian, 1220 2nd St. * 
  2. Iglesia el Sermon del Monte, 2nd and Hill Sts. 
  3. Church in Ocean Park, 235 Hill St.
  4. St. Peter and St. Paul Coptic Orthodox, 1245 4th St. 
  5. St. Augustine by-the-Sea, 1227 4th St. 
  6. St. Monica Catholic Community, 725 California Ave. 
  7. St. Paul’s Lutheran, 958 Lincoln Blvd. 
  8. First United Methodist, 1008 11th St. 
  9. Unitarian Universalist Community, 1260 18th St. 
  10. Pilgrim Lutheran, 1730 Wilshire Blvd. 
  11. Beth Shir Shalom, 1827 California Ave. 
  12. Phillips Chapel, 2001 4th St. (open only from 3-5 pm) 
  13. Mt. Olive Lutheran, 1343 Ocean Park Blvd. * 
  14. St. Anne Church & Shrine, 2011 Colorado Ave. * 
  15. Calvary Baptist, 1502 20th St. 

Check-in locations are designated with *.   

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