A Brief History of Our Sanctuary

Gothic Architecture Inspires Reverence, Spires Point Skyward

On Easter morning April 9, 1950, ground was broken for the erection of the Presbyterian Church of Anaheim. On Sunday, October 12, 1951 in a setting of worship and reverence, this beautiful edifice was dedicated as a House of God.

The church building is more properly described as a modification of the traditional Gothic style. Thus, the builders achieved a simplification of structure without sacrificing anything of classic beauty. In viewing the structure from the street, one is aware at once of its massive strength, composed of steel reinforced concrete walls, and of its slender vertical piers and counterbalancing flying buttresses. Placed in the walls at well proportioned intervals along the entire length of the building are tall lancet windows which climax in the pointed arch so characteristic of this type of architecture.

The entire structure, rising nearly fifty-feet above the street level, is roofed with asphalt slate shingles. The fabulous weight of the total building thrusts downward six-feet below the ground to rest on a series of large concrete platforms or pontoons. This engineering feature was introduced to provide ample opportunity for the building to “float safely” if this community experiences the shock of an earthquake.

The new church building is united to the present Church Office and educational building by a long, low structure which houses the organ and it blower, the heating plant, the main electrical controls, a storage room, and the Bride’s Room. Tying the old and new together is the Broadway entrance to the entire church facility.

Celtic Cross

The main entrance is one of the focal points of beauty in the total church building. All the upward sweeping lines of the massive mahogany doors, swinging on heavy wrought iron hinges, and the related lines of the deeply recessed portal, converge at the entrance peak into a Celtic Cross reminiscent of the Scottish origins of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.

Passing through this imposing entrance one finds oneself in the garth. This quiet setting, removed from the traffic noises of Broadway, is a protected place for the congregation to visit after church and a place where the children are protected from automobile traffic while they await their parents. Here, too, is a graceful setting for group meetings and outdoor social gatherings.

Impressive Entrances

One may enter the church building itself either through the narthex entrance leading into the garth, or an equally spacious entrance leading out to Clementine Street. From the narthex one may pass through the large mahogany doors into the nave, either by way of a wide central aisle or by one of the two vaulted side aisles.

When one enters this startlingly pure expression of Gothic architecture, one finds oneself wrapped in a mantle of quiet reverence. Like the canopy of heaven, the vaulted heavily beamed ceiling rises forty-seven feet above the worshiper’s head. From anyplace in the church one sees the Lord’s Table. Every line points forward and upward to this constant reminder of the Saviour’s love. Here, one knows at once, is a church, a building dedicated to the glory of God, erected for the fellowship of Christian people and maintained for the service of mankind.

Such an air of awe and reverence is the result of hours of careful study and the fruit of deliberate planning. The beauty of this building has been achieved by a careful consideration for and use of the best in classic church architecture.

Simplicity Keyword

One word describing the total structure best is “simplicity.” The ribbed and fluted vaultings, the flamboyant tracery, flaming and flowing about and above the windows of Medieval and French Gothic edifices, has been set aside. The relatively large wall surfaces pierced by narrow lancet windows, so characteristic of the Italian Gothic church structures, has been retained. Three large, rose windows rise high in the chancel wall above the Lord’s Table. The result is to produce a simple, almost plain, setting for the beautifully executed hand-carved woodwork and furnishings.

The pews, choir stalls, and chancel furnishings are all made of oak and ash, finished in a comparatively light stain. These fixtures, made rich by the finest hand-carved symbols, give to the church interior a dignity and atmosphere of reverence that challenges all who enter to strive to give of their best to the Master.

Pews, seating about 350 persons, fill the sanctuary. The lectern and pulpit are situated forward and on either side of the chancel. And in the Sanctuary, raised three steps above the chancel, is the Lord’s Table, set forward of the delicately carved panels of the reredos. Centered in the reredos and immediately behind and above the Table, is the dossal screen made of imported Italian silk. The pattern woven into the cardinal red cloth is that of the vine. Its leaves and fruit representing God’s gift of eternal life.

The building was designed by Mr. G. Stanley Wilson, architect, of Riverside and erected by Mr. Frank Pinkerton, contractor, of Corona. All the wood furnishings were created and carved by the Howard Atwood Company of South Pasadena.

Architect Takes Deserved Praise

Mr. G. Stanley Wilson was the architect for the First Presbyterian Church of Anaheim. Some of the structures for which he is known are the Fullerton City yards and the Fullerton City hall, which received a 1940 national honor award from the American Institute of Architects. Mr. Wilson’s St. Francis Chapel in the St. Francis court and the Rotunda International of the Mission Inn, Riverside are internationally known.

Excerpts from Anaheim Bulletin, Friday, October 5, 1951 (edited)