It’s been more than 50 years since the city of Los Angeles first adopted a landmarks ordinance and started working to save historic places. The first buildings were from the pueblo era and the list grew to include icons like Grauman’s Chinese, the Watts Towers and Angel’s Flight. The list has grown haphazardly as property owners or neighborhood groups or just fans have made nominations for inclusion.
The Getty Conservation Institute and the City of L.A. Office of Historic Resources have embarked on a comprehensive plan to survey the entire city for future landmarks. One of their outreach tools is the My Historic L.A. website which has been asking for submissions by building type. They’re being very specific this time around and looking for historic meeting halls, places important to LGBT history and just this week, they added historic religious buildings.
Of course we have an amazing collection of “greatest hits” churches and synagogues in L.A., but less people know about the unbelievably diverse collection of lesser known sites important in spiritualist history like the Philosophical Research Society of Manly P. Hall in Los Feliz, Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self Realization Fellowship in Mt. Washington and the Shrine Auditorium, where L. Ron Hubbard’s first demonstrated Dianetics. Just because the colorful founders of these organizations are gone doesn’t diminish the significance of these special places. You should add your spiritual favorites to the list.
One of the most interesting religious environments I ever visited was a temporary one. A stage set at the Universal World Church near Beverly and Alvarado. I attended one of their Christmas services before the building was torn down for a school in the early 2000s. Miss Velma’s outrageous folk art stage and showbiz take on religious patriotism was captured for this TV special in 1985 and has to be seen to be believed.