A Huge Piece Of L.A. History Goes Up In Smoke - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

A Huge Piece Of L.A. History Goes Up In Smoke

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Until very recently, Los Angeles was not particularly proactive about preserving and protecting the historical gems hidden in its hills and valleys. A perfect example is the site of the original Walt Disney Studio, once located at the corner of Hyperion Avenue and Griffith Park Boulevard. The studio is long gone, replaced by a strip mall. The only indication of what was there are a few Snow White looking cottages, once used by studio employees and a sign on a post declaring the location a historical site.

And so I was especially saddened to learn that Crouch Memorial Church of God in Christ in South L.A. had been destroyed by fire. The flames not only gutted the building but obliterated a huge part of L.A. history. The structure was completed in 1896 for the congregation of  Haven Methodist Episcopal Church. Noted architect John C. Austin, famous for such L.A. landmarks as Griffith Observatory, Shrine Auditorium and L.A. City Hall, designed the church.

But that's just the beginning of the building's significance to L.A. In the early 1900s, the church was one of the primary centers for the city's prohibition movement. The Women's Christian Temperance Union held numerous meetings there while waging battle against alcoholic beverages.

However, in the 1920s, the demographics of the neighborhood began to change. The congregation of Haven Methodist Episcopal moved to another location and the building was sold to Beth Eden Baptist Temple, an African-American church. In August 1925, the Beth Eden hosted the 34th annual convention of the Western Baptist Association, drawing several hundred delegates from all over Southern California.

Eventually, the building was purchased by the current owner Crouch Memorial Church of God in Christ, a predominantly African-American Pentecostal congregation. Crouch Memorial has been credited, among other things, with helping to ease tensions between blacks and Latinos in the area, a number of whom are members of the church.

Three firefighters were injured battling the blaze, which is believed to have started in the attic because of a malfunctioning heater. Fortunately, all three will recover. Unfortunately, a structure representing a significant period of local history is forever lost. Only a few bibles and photos are said to have been saved. But there is a silver lining in all of this and it resides in the faith and perseverance of the congregation. One church member was quoted as saying simply and resolutely, "we will rebuild." So while a great historical symbol is gone, it's encouraging to know the incredible work done by those who worshiped there will continue.

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