Favorite Recipes Compiled By the J.O.C. Class of the First M.E. Church
Compiled By the J.O.C. Class of the First M.E. Church
Los Angeles, 1920
At the time of this cookbook’s publication, the First Methodist Episcopal Church was already a well-known Los Angeles institution, tracing its history nearly 70 years prior, to the early years of California’s statehood.
In 1853, Reverend Adam Bland was sent as a Methodist missionary to Los Angeles, which had few Protestant citizens at that time. Bland took over a building that had formerly housed the El Dorado Saloon (and later became the site of the Merced Theater). At the time, it was known as The Methodist Chapel and Bland held small but regular Sunday services while his wife taught Sunday School.
However, the first official Methodist Church was not built in Los Angeles until 1868 on Fort St. (now Broadway) between 3rd and 4th Streets. The Church counted former slave turned real-estate entrepreneur Biddy Mason as a member. An important Los Angeles figure, Mason went on to be founder of Los Angeles’ First African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The M.E. Church on Fort St. rapidly grew in size, necessitating a larger sanctuary. In 1900, the Architect John C. Austin, one of the designers of LA’s City Hall and Griffith Observatory, was commissioned to design the new Church. Featuring extensive stained glass and a striking, curved entryway, the building sat at the corner of South Hill and West 6th Streets across from what is now Pershing Square (pictured).
By 1920, the year of this cookbook’s publication, that building was torn down to make way for Grauman’s Metropolitan Theatre. As Pastor Elmer Elsworth Helms writes in his introduction to this cookbook, the Church women’s J.O.C. Class (“Jesus Our Companion’) created the recipe collection as a fundraising tool for a new Church home. Pastor Helms had only just arrived in Los Angeles from Pennsylvania and was temporarily holding services at Trinity Auditorium in DTLA while the First M.E. Church waited to rebuild. (note: Trinity Church, which constructed Trinity Auditorium, also has its own cookbook in this archive).
The fundraising efforts appear to have paid off, as the First M.E. formally opened its new, $1.5 Million building in July of 1923 at 813 South Hope Street (pictured). It was “the costliest undertaking of the kind in the history of Methodism,” proclaimed the Los Angeles Times. The new structure also housed classrooms, basketball courts and other recreation facilities for Church youth. Even in its fancy, new location, the Church retained it’s famous kinetic signage from its Hill St. building, continuing to advertise itself as “The Church with the Revolving Cross” (pictured).
In the following decades, the Church became known as the First United Methodist Church of Los Angeles, but in the 1990s the Hope St. building was sold and torn down. The First United Methodist Congregation still exists in LA today, but without a fixed location - sometimes holding services in a lot they own at the corner of Flower and Olympic.
1900/1909 historic photographs From Water and Power Associates
1923 from UCLA Library Special Collections (Los Angeles Daily News Negatives)
Newspaper clipping from The Los Angeles Times, 1924 and 1919