One year ago, DnA reported on the happy news that the Schindler Church on Compton Avenue at 49th in South Los Angeles, the only church designed by the Modernist pioneer R.M. Schindler, had been spruced up and opened for service by Faith-Build International (FBI). It was long dilapidated and inaccessible.
Schindler buffs and church members gathered within the softly lit, interlocking wooden structure on a sunny April Saturday for a celebration of an architectural resurrection and a new life ahead for the building that was built in 1944 for the Bethlehem Baptist congregation (they sold the building in 1975.)
Now its fortunes have changed again. Faith Build has ceased to hold services in the building and the owners of the building — who have remained anonymous — have put it up for sale with Crosby Doe Associates — for $1,850,000.
One person who is well-acquainted with the building told DnA that in his view the price is too high, since it is a “rough neighborhood and the building is in poor condition,” and believes the price will be beyond the means of Faith Build International, who are trying to raise funds to purchase the property.
So the listing begs the question: what next for the beleaguered gem?
Any future owner is not bound to maintain the building as a church although Ken Bernstein of the Office of Historic Resources says “this space uniquely designed by Schindler as a church clearly works best a church or other similar assembly use.” As a protected City Historic-Cultural Monument, any exterior or interior changes would be reviewed by the Cultural Heritage Commission and Office of Historic Resources.
But is there any chance that FBI’s Pastor Melvin Ashley and his flock can find a way to acquire it? Last year he told DnA that becoming custodians of the building was “nothing less than a act of God.”
Even though services are being held in another location in Watts, the pastor is still based in the church — he says the owners’ agent asked him to stay to keep the building from falling into disrepair.
And he is trying to reach out to the community of Schindler fans to piece together the monies to purchase the building. Noting that the church building would produce few dividends for a buyer (it has no parking is unlikely to change use) he believes $850,000 is more likely price for the structure. Trying to organize the purchase is, he says, “a new endeavor for me and I’m trying to stay optimistic. If the building falls back into despair then there goes the faith of the community.”
Can God or man deliver a second act?
Listen to last year’s DnA about the reopening of the church, below, featuring interviews with church members and Schindler enthusiasts. And listen to today’s DnA about preservation of very different midcentury landmark: Parker Center.