Founder’s Living Museum

 

The ability to live more fully in the present arises from a sense of our history and the occasionally winding journey taken to arrive where we now find ourselves. The Founder’s Museum is a place where important objects relevant to our history are displayed with the concept of shedding light on significant people and organizations that played a role in Founder’s current form of expression.

 

The Museum’s present version is in no way complete; thus, we see it as a Living Museum—sure to evolve as additional information or historical pieces are integrated in to the display. Funding will be crucial to maintaining and expanding the museum in the future. Founder’s welcomes donations of whatever size or scope to continue this vital aspect of our legacy.

 

Founder’s Living Museum commemorates the donations made by museum supporters.  Your names or names whom you wish to honor will be engraved on brass plates and mounted on a plaque in the museum.

 

Three levels of giving qualify for brass plates:

Patron$500
Angel$1,000
Archangel$1,500

The plates come in 3 sizes, depending on the level of your donation.  Multiple plates can be used to honor or remember more than one person. For instance, a person could opt for one large panel with one name for $1,500.00, or 3 smaller plates with one name each.

 

We are very excited by the interest that has been generated by the Living Museum, and we appreciate all gifts (no amount is too small) to help us support and build this “living” record of our history.

   

How I Met Ernest Holmes
by Dr. George Bendall

   

Editor’s Note:  Dr. Bendall was the Interim Minister at Founder’s following the death of Dr. William Hornaday in 1992 and prior to the arrival of Rev. Arthur in 1993

   

I searched for many years to find the answer to the truth of myself and God.  I was brought up in the High Episcopal Church, serving in many functions:  Sunday School teacher at 11 years of age, altar boy, and member of the order of Sir Galahad, Crucifix.  All temporarily quieting my restless search.

In World War II, I served in subcontracting and procurement of war materials.  Following the war, I became an industrial engineer, traveling from Nova Scotia to the West Indies.  My search continued.

In my desire for inner strength I conducted an independent church on the roof of the Hotel Shelburne in New York.  I flew in every Sunday from wherever I was to be at the service.

During this period at the Shelburne, still searching, I studied with Dr. Paul Martin Brunet and the late Dr. Raymond Charles Barker.  Then I discovered the writings of Ernest Holmes.  “I found it,” I said to myself.

I telephone for an appointment.  I was given an appointment for nine months later.  I scheduled a train trip on the Santa Fe Chief; but it turned out there was a pilots and mechanics strike underway.  I couldn’t make the train I was scheduled to take.  I booked in on the next one.  After that I found my original train was involved in one of the worst wrecks of Santa Fe history.  God was protecting me.

This had to be the answer to my search.  I arrived at the airport only to find out all the hotels were booked because of the strike.  I secured a room at the historic Mission Inn in Riverside.  I got there and back to the airport by making a deal with the helicopter mail service linking the two cities.  Every need was met as my search unfolded.

 

Meeting Holmes and Hornaday

I met Dr. Holmes and a tall, energetic redhead by the name of Dr. William Hornaday.  They spent four days with me and I knew I was where I should be.  I returned to New York with the knowledge that I had found the pathway to what I sought.

I later returned to Los Angeles and was reunited with Dr. Hornaday and Dr. Holmes.  While assisting them both at Headquarters and services at the Wiltern Theater, I was present when the first shovel of dirt was turned for Founder’s Church (named by Dr. Bill against Ernest’s wishes for him and the teaching he gave to the world).

I lived with Dr. Holmes the last three years of his life.  Every time I enter Founder’s Church, I feel the vibrations of Dr. Holmes immortality and Dr. Hornaday’s desire to preserve Religious Science.

Thank you, God, for allowing me to be a minister and part of the teaching and practice embodied in the words “Founder’s Church of Religious Science.”

     

The Architect of Founder’s Church

 

Paul Williams, the architect of Founder’s Church, spent 50 years creating a legacy of buildings that helps define the look of today’s upscale Los Angeles.  Anyone wanting to see one of the homes he designed could do so by simply viewing 1937’s hit comedy film Topper.  In the movie, Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are two glamorous ghosts who come back to haunt a stodgy banker who lives in an enormous Tudor mansion.  Topper’s house was, of course, a Paul Williams house.   He designed the 16-room Pasadena home in 1929 for Jack Atkin, a British immigrant who’d made his fortune racing thoroughbreds.

Over the next four decades, Williams would become known as the “architect to the stars,” creating homes for Anthony Quinn, Bert Lahr, Danny Thomas, and Zsa Zsa Gabor.  He designed Frank Sinatra’s swank bachelor pad and a Palm Springs getaway for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

Besides houses, Williams conceived or reconceived such familiar icons of the Southern California good life as Perino’s, a 1950s hangout for the beautiful people, and Chasen’s, the Spago of its day, which he renovated in 1968.  In the late 1940s, he reworked the Beverly Hills Hotel, adding some buildings, redesigning others, and splashing all with the now trademark pink and green.  He contributed to the spidery, futuristic Theme Building in the middle of Los Angeles International Airport.

It’s more than a little ironic that one of the men responsible for designing the L.A. of popular imagination–a sumptuous playground where the elite frolic–was black.

Williams, a native Angeleno and lifelong Republican built churches, mortuaries, banks, offices, and civic centers in black neighborhoods.  He was chief architect on the 499-unit Pueblo del Rio housing project in southeast Los Angeles.  His buildings are found in every corner of Los Angeles, and they’re scattered throughout the rest of the world, from Colombia to Liberia to San Francisco.  It would have been an extraordinary career for any architect.

For a black architect, born in 1894 (Williams died in 1980), it was almost unbelievable.  His will to succeed seems to have been innate.  Orphaned at age four and raised by foster parents, Williams excelled at drawing, and in high school decided to become an architect.  He got no encouragement.  But he didn’t require much.  “If I allow the fact that I am a Negro to checkmate my will to do, now, I will inevitably form the habit of being defeated,” he wrote of his early decision to forge ahead.

 

Opening a Practice

After working for several architecture firms and spending time at the engineering school at the University of Southern California, he opened his own practice in 1922 at age 28.  Just how bold this was is hard for us now to understand.  Williams described his meetings with prospective white clients in the early days this way:  “In the moment that they met me and discovered they were dealing with a Negro, I could see many of them ‘freeze.’  Their interest in discussing plans waned instantly and their one remaining concern was to discover a convenient exit without hurting my feelings.”

Williams didn’t waste time nursing hurt feelings.  He saw the race issue as a practical problem, calling for practical solutions.  He adjusted to his white clients’ discomfort in part by learning to draw upside down, so the clients wouldn’t have to sit next to him.  “My success during those first few years was founded largely upon my willingness to accept commissions which were rejected as too small by other architects…” he wrote.  Being black forced him, in his own words, “willy-nilly to develop salesmanship.”

Salesmanship, charm, and doggedness were crucial.  But Paul Williams also did wonderful work.  His architectural style is elusive; he produced some 3,000 buildings, but there isn’t necessarily a distinctive Williams stamp.

“It was very important to him to please his clients,” says Karen Hudson, his granddaughter and biographer.  And his clients wanted very different looks.  The handsome, rectilinear 28th Street YMCA in South Central Los Angeles bears no resemblance to the luxurious, terraced Bel Air home complete with a ballroom and a pool.  In the Founder’s Church of Religious Science–stocky, domed, and round–there isn’t a trace of the lovely Second Baptist Church he designed in 1924.

He was very characteristic of the era,” says Ken Breisch, a professor of architecture at the University of Southern California.  “A lot of architects were experimenting, trying to find an idiom that was right for the country.”  If he settled on one idiom, it was a graceful and streamlined historicism, most apparent in his upscale homes and public buildings.”

At mid-century, Paul Williams was the last word in elegant traditionalism.

  

(The preceding is an edited version of an article originally written by Jennifer Reese appearing in VIA, a travel magazine, published in September, 1999.)