Welsh Presbyterian Church
1909 – S. Tilden Norton
1153 Valencia Street – map
This red brick, Greek Revival church building, situated about three blocks northwest of the Convention Center, celebrates its centennial next September. That is, if it doesn’t crumble away before then.
Around 1906, after a rift between the city’s Orthodox Jews, the newly-formed Sinai Congregation split off from Beth Israel (the Olive Street Shul). The group held services on West Pico, then commissioned Samuel Tilden Norton to design its first synagogue at 12th and Valencia Streets. Costing $30,000, it was dedicated with a ceremony lasting three and a quarter hours (I hope they had seat cushions way back then) on Sunday, September 5, 1909.
The Valencia Street side.
According to a contemporary Los Angeles Times account, the program that summer day included thirty-four numbers (pre-dating Springsteen concerts by sixty-some years). Highlights for the afternoon included J.L. Jonas accepting the building and key from M.S. Kornblum and Edith Jonas, respectively. Mrs A. Granas lit the perpetual lamp, and Mrs Esther Isaacs and Mrs M. Leventhal lit the menorahs. Among other speeches and readings, the dedicatory sermon was delivered and prayer offered by the founder of the new synagogue, Rabbi Isidore Myers. (Myers, born in Australia in 1856, was killed in April 1922 when a pair of cars ran over him at the intersection of Sunset and Alvarado. The father of Carmel and Zion Myers, he was living at nearby 1910 Kent Street at the time of his death.)
The synagogue opened without its permanent seats. Once they were installed, the building held 415 worshippers on the main floor and about 200 in the gallery.
The black and white picture, c. 1909, is from the USC Libraries Digital Archive.
In 1926, when the Sinai congregation moved to its new home on South New Hampshire (Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 91, also the work of S. Tilden Norton), the congregation sold the Valencia building to the Welsh Presbyterian Church, which owns and uses the structure to this day.
You can still see the Stars of David displayed in the building, in the stained glass windows and the ceiling medallion. Unfortunately, the structure is the worse for wear, with broken windows and running cracks in the bricks’ mortar being the most obvious problems. Also, it looks like the building is graffitied on a regular basis. It would be nice if the various congregations in its history could team up and do something nice for the landmark in conjunction with its 100th anniversary next summer. Just let me know when the fund-raising bake sale is.
“Stars Light in Synagogue” The Los Angeles Times; Sep 6, 1909, p. I11
“Noted Rabbi Is Run Down; Is Killed” The Los Angeles Times; Apr 26, 1922, p. II1
Up next: Village Green