Monday, March 16, 2009

City of the Seekers

On Saturday, Larry and I went on the LA Conservancy's and Modern Committee's tour called "City of Seekers: L.A.'s Unique Spiritual Legacy." It was really interesting. There were five stops on the tour, highlighting " modern spirituality and new approaches to traditional reglious practices paralleled the growth of creative industries in Southern California." The population of Los Angeles mushroomed in the 1920's. Many people came west to escape the traditions of the East Coast and to reinvent themselves. They were seeking spiritual (and other) freedoms.

Niscience Chapel

Our first stop was the Foundation of Niscience Chapel of the Jesus Ethic in Glendale. Architecturally, this is a lovely collection of buildings and gardens (1966, Culver Heaton, architect). It's on Colorado St., right across from the Glendale Galleria. I've driven by here so many times and never really noticed the place. On Colorado, there's a very long, sand-colored brick wall, obscuring the beauty of this compound. Since I love mid-20th Century modern architecture, this was, by far, my favorite building. You can read a bit about the basics of Niscience and it's founders here.

Self-Realization Center

Next stop, the Self-Realization Fellowship Mother Center on Mount Washington, Highland Park. This building was originally built as the Mt. Washington Hotel in 1909 by the Milwaukee Building Company. The building is in the Mission Revival style with parapets, arched openings and deep eaves. The grounds are large and contain many beautiful gardens and meditative outdoor areas. The Paramahansa Yogananda bought the building in 1925 and turned it into his spiritual headquarters. We toured the grounds and the lower floor of the main building. I had visited other SRF locations in Hollywood and Santa Monica, but it was a treat to see this vast and peaceful piece of property in the middle of Los Angeles.

Angelus Temple

We wanted to get over to the Angelus Temple in Echo Park early. This location's tour were over at 2:45 pm, instead of 4 pm like the other locations. Now, I've driven by this building thousands of times. It overlooks Echo Park Lake which is one of my favorite parks in L.A. Aimee Semple McPherson had this building erected for her Foursquare Gospel Church. She broadcast her religious radio show from this very site for many years. She was the first female radio-evangelist in America. The interior of the sanctuary has been modernized and changed considerably over the years, but it is still a very impressive interior. We were allowed to take photos inside. You will see the beautiful stained glass windows and the church dome in my slide show, below. After leaving the Temple, we were led onto a balcony/patio one story up from the street into Sister Aimee's residence. This was the highlight of the tour. The two-story residence is a beautifully restored Spanish Revival style home. It is now the site of the Foursquare Heritage Center, a museum dedicated to the story of Sister Aimee's life and ministry. The beautiful details of this home are very well preserved. I was knocked out by the tile in the bathroom!!!

Lunch @ Zankou Chicken, Sunset & Normandie

Larry and I drove over to Zankou Chicken on Sunset and Normandie for lunch and to fortify ourselves for the remainder of this spiritual, architectural tour.

Philosophical Research Center

After lunch, we zoomed up to Los Feliz to the Philosophical Research Society, on the corner of Los Feliz and Griffith Park Blvds. I've actually been inside this building. The auditorium is often used for lectures and concerts. This is a group of buildings, some built in the 1930's, some in the 1950's and the last one in 1968. The original building was designed by architect Robert Stacy-Judd in the Mayan temple style. Because of money issues during the Great Depression of the 1930's the original design for the entrance was not realized. We were shown drawings of the original site plan. The founder of the PRS was Manly P. Hall, an extremely charismatic and learned man. There is a wonderful bookstore on site containing spiritual books about all religions of the world. I'd say that this bookshop rivals our local Bodhi Tree bookshop. You should definitely visit this spot if you're seeking inspirational literature.

The Bonnie Brae House

Our last visit was to the Bonnie Brae House, just west of Downtown. This is a sweet little 19th Century cottage where the modern Pentecostal Christian religion found it's Los Angeles roots. The owner of this house, William J. Seymous lead this small church, starting in 1905. He is considered to be one of the pioneers of this movement. We weren't allowed to take photos inside the church, but it is beautifully maintained and still utilized as a place of worship.

I cannot stress the importance of building preservation in our City of the Angels enough. Without organizations like the L.A. Conservancy, there would not have been a tour of this significance to attend. Luckily, many of these buildings have been saved, preserved and restored so we can fully understand their importance to our cultural history in Los Angeles. I urge you to join and support the L.A. Conservancy in saving the history of Los Angeles.

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At 6:37 PM PDT, Blogger Leah said...

Thank you so much for putting up all these pictures. I was at SRF until 1:00. Then I met a friend a lunch at Auntie Ems' on Eagle Rock Blvd. Had a very nice lunch, but that didn't leave much time for the rest of the tour.
So I only got to the Niscience, which I also enjoyed. I'm sorry I missed The Angelus Temple, my goodness, that home looks incredible!

That is the price of being a docent, I'm glad I did it, but I won't do it for every tour.

At 6:39 PM PDT, Blogger Leah said...

btw, your choice of lunch was wonderful, I LOVE Zanku!

At 12:07 PM PDT, Blogger MonkeyGurrrrrl said...

WOW. That is amazing. How gorgeous and completely divergent those places are!! It settled one thing, tho - I'm definitely a "Mission Revival style" kinda gal. Makes me feel all grandiose, but at least I always learn something when YOU do the work! :)

At 3:05 PM PDT, Blogger Ellen Bloom said...

Hey Leah!
We can visit Aimee Semple McPherson's home/visitor center any old time! Let's take a field trip!

At 3:07 PM PDT, Blogger Leah said...

Ellen, I am so there, we have to also visit funky shops and have a great lunch. Is it open on Sundays? I'm available on Sunday the 29th and I know we can get more people to join in.

At 11:10 AM PDT, Blogger woolanthropy said...

That is a great tour!

I love all the different religions and the buildings


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