A Scrapbook of Church Buildings
In our 150-year history, St. Peter’s Church has called several places home. For our first three years, the congregation worshiped in borrowed space. In 1865 we furnished an empty room at the county courthouse, and we used that room for about two years.
The Little Red Church
Our parish’s first permanent church was a small wooden building that everybody called the Little Red Church, situated on Jefferson Street, across from the post office. It was finished on June 23, 1867, and dedicated on June 30. Total cost: $2,142.70. Those were the days!
The Little Red Church was modeled on the Church of the Advent in Brooklyn, Alameda County. That building is still standing and still in use.
The Little Red Church had 40 pews for rent at $40 per year. In 1867 16 were rented—11 at full price, 5 at a discount.
Over the next three decades our congregation had periods of enthusiastic growth and—from time to time—slow periods.
When St. Peter’s celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1914, there were 106 families in the parish directory—about the same size as today. The parish had a large and active Sunday School under Supervisor F. P. Thompson… and parishioners of all ages enjoyed socializing together, just as we do now.
The Parish Hall Church
In the 1920s the Vestry and rector decided to move to our current location, in a rapidly-developing section called the “Redwood Highlands,” on the west side of the railroad tracks. The decision was influenced by a parishioner in the real estate business, and the deal took a while to complete. Some parishioners objected that the new location was “far from town.”
The original plan was for St. Peter’s to build a sanctuary shortly after the parish hall was completed… but there was only enough money for one building.
By Christmas of 1925 the new parish hall was almost finished. On December 23rd the Sunday School performed a Christmas program to an audience of 150. Rector Albert E. Clay held the first service on Christmas Eve, and the parish hall was formally dedicated on Sunday, January 24, 1926.
The building was used for Sunday worship, and many other purposes, too. It became a theater for plays, a dining room for suppers, and a great place to hold a meeting… just like today.
Throughout the Depression and through World War II the parish hall was the scene of weddings, funerals, services, and celebrations. The congregation continued to nurse the dream of building a dedicated sanctuary, but it wasn’t until after the war that the parish began to feel like the dream might be within reach.
In 1948 the parish called Reverend C. Peter Boes to be its rector. Father Boes took on the task of finally building the sanctuary which the parish had been waiting for since 1925.
Construction began in earnest just after Christmas in 1951, and by mid-January the shell of the building was complete. In December, 1952 Christmas was celebrated for the first time in the new sanctuary. The building and its furnishings cost about $150,000. The money was raised in an energetic parish-wide canvas.
Several features made the new sanctuary special. Among the most striking were stained glass windows by the renowned French artist Gabriel Loire, whose work can be seen in churches around the world. The stained glass windows were installed in July, 1956.
The building of the new sanctuary marked the beginning of a new phase for St. Peter’s—several decades of sustained growth. The postwar Baby Boom was beginning, and in the 1950s, St. Peter’s welcomed more kids than we’d ever seen before… as well as their families. In 1955 we had 350 students enrolled in Sunday School.
In the early 1960s, Father Boes’s successor, Father John Haverland, drew up plans that added upstairs and downstairs classrooms onto the south side of the parish hall, extended the north side to include new offices, and gave the congregation the plant we have today.
The expansion was begun in 1961 and finished in 1962. Today our buildings house not only St. Peter’s, but a preschool, a boy’s choir, and many other groups as well.
Of course, parishes are made of people, not buildings. And anyone whose path leads to our door hears the same greeting…