History

An Historic, Centrally Located Landmark

old-epiphany01-cr1200x8001The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany has served the Lincoln Heights and Downtown communities of Los Angeles, California since the original structure was built in 1886.  The church sits on the corner of Sichel and Altura Streets, just off the busy intersection of North Broadway and Griffin Avenue.  It is about ten minutes by car from the Los Angeles civic center, in a north-easterly direction and is even closer to Chinatown.  Originally one of the earliest suburbs of Los Angeles, Lincoln Heights boasts many century-old houses of great beauty and stature.   However, since the mid-twentieth century its residents have been comprised mainly of the working poor, and recent immigrants from Latin America or Asia.

Buildings of Architectural Significance

Church InteriorDesigned by Ernest Coxhead, who designed many Episcopal Churches of the period, the 1886 building served as the parish church until 1913, when the cornerstone was laid for a new, larger church designed by Arthur Benton.  With the construction of the new church, the original building became the Parish Hall.

Benton employed an intriguing mix of styles, with elements of Gothic revival on the roof and the stonework. The interior is “Wood Gothic” with high ceilings and majestic wooden pillars. It also boasts a pipe organ designed by Henry Pilcher’s Sons of Louisville, KY.  Epiphany still has its original stained-glass windows, though some have been removed for preservation purposes.  The “Epiphany” window over the main altar was probably created by Judson Studios of Los Angeles.  In a city known for its wanton destruction of its older buildings the Church of the Epiphany has survived the worst depredations of “urban renewal.”  Epiphany is the oldest functioning church in the Diocese of Los Angeles and is one of the oldest in the entire region.

An Historic Landmark:  The Church of the Epiphany and the Chicano Movement

“Whether the cause was walking out for better schools, supporting a union for farmworkers, protesting police abuse…bringing mariachis to Mass or organizing pickets, walk-outs, sit-ins and other demonstrations—the Church of the Epiphany provided a place and a space for progress.”

–Felix F. Gutiérrez, Professor of Journalism,  Annenberg School, University of Southern California

Gateway1.Chavez at EpiphanyFor over 125 years, the Church of the Epiphany played a significant role in the community life of Lincoln Heights.  Most importantly it was, and is, a center of Latino culture and social justice work. During the 1960s and 1970s, the Church of the Epiphany served as the Los Angeles base for Cesar Chavez and United Farm Workers movement; it was the home of La Raza, the Chicano civil rights movement (the newspaper, La Raza, was printed in the basement); the home of the Chicano Students Movement, it was East Los Angeles headquarters for Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. The Brown Berets were founded and met there.  The Chicano Moratorium to protest the inequality of Viet Nam War draft was planned at Epiphany; the student walk-outs of 1969 were organized at Epiphany; In 1970 Police Chief Tom Reddin met with the Chicano leaders protesting brutality by the Los Angeles Police Department.  That meeting took place in the basement of the Church of the Epiphany.

Epiphany’s clergy, such as the Rev. John Luce (pictured below) and the Rev. Roger Wood, who served from 196Luce Gives Mass_01-2 (2)5 to 1973, and 1973-1982 respectively, have not only nurtured the spiritual and social life of the community, but also raised cultural awareness and pride in the rich heritage of Latino religious and social customs. With their encouragement Epiphany became a place where Mexican, Salvadoran, Honduran, and Chicano customs became part of the Sunday liturgy; where Latino iconography and religious imagery adorned the church; where social customs that had fallen into disuse or had been repressed by the wider culture were celebrated once again.

In short, Epiphany is for Los Angeles what the Old North Church is for Boston: A symbol of the American struggle for freedom and equality.  Just as Paul Revere called to those who would fight for liberty and justice, so the Church of the Epiphany has spawned a generation of outriders for justice and equality.  For this reason, since 2005 Epiphany has been designated a historical landmark of the City of Los Angeles.

 

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