Tuesday, October 18, 2011
St. John's Presbyterian Church
St. John's Presbyterian Church, now called the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, is located at 2640 College Ave. in Berkeley, CA.
This church dates back to 1907, and had its genesis in the events following the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Following the destruction of the earthquake, many people moved to the East Bay from San Francisco to start their lives over. Many of these people had lost their homes in the earthquake or the ensuing fires, and there was a strong desire to create a new community in the East Bay. Presbyterian San Franciscans, after moving to Berkeley, joined with a portion of the congregation at the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley and formed a new church community in 1907. The community, most of whom hailed from St. John's Church in San Francisco, had a sentimental attachment to their former parish and enticed their pastor, Dr. George G. Eldridge, to relocate from San Francisco. He agreed to the move with the stipulation that, out of sentimental attachment, the new church be called St. John's.
The new building was designed by noted Bay Area architect Julia Morgan, who designed the Berkeley City Club and the King's Daughter's Home in Oakland. The initial design for the church was created under the requirement from the church community that it be built for the lowest possible price. The resulting design, which was built for an estimated cost of $1.60 per square foot, is unlike almost any other church building that I've seen. Dark stained Douglas Fir, broad windows and gables, and with exposed trusses and support beams within the walls, the church is very understated, but also very beautiful.
The church community purchased another property across the street in 1955 and began building new structures on it, finishing and occupying classrooms and a fellowship hall in 1965. The built a new sanctuary and occupied it in 1975. The original building was then vacant and in some danger of being destroyed until it was occupied by the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts. The building currently serves as a theatrical home to a number of Berkeley performance groups, including the Berkeley Opera and the Berkeley Ballet Theater.
Getting There By Bike...
I found this church by riding straight up College Ave. from Rockridge BART. You'll pass it on your left as your heading towards the UC Berkeley campus. College isn't an awful street to ride a bike on, but there isn't much of a shoulder so watch out for car doors and people passing by too closely on your left. Remember, you have rights as a vehicle too, so take that lane! It's much safer to be out in traffic than it is to ride in the gutter or hover close to parked cars and rapidly opening car doors!