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Church and State

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City Hall

City Hall:

Piedmont's City Hall and Fire Department were built in 1910 and designed by Albert Farr. They held the council chamber, municipal offices and jail. The fire station had a garage, dormitories, hose drying tower and 60 foot bell tower to call volunteer fire fighters.

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The San Francisco Examiner - Thu - Aug. 18, 1910

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Mowbray Hall 


Oakland Tribune - Sat - Apr. 7, 1917

Piedmont Community Church, 1917

From Piedmont's Church:

The life of “The Church in Piedmont,” as it was originally known, began as the twentieth century dawned. The drive to former church homes in Oakland had proved arduous, so several attempts to provide Sunday School for residents’ children were made between 1900 and 1905. Then in 1905 a permanent Sunday School program was organized under the leadership of Rev. Henry Mowbray, Assistant Minister of First Congregational Church, Oakland. Until the 1906 earthquake, the Sunday School met in the old Blair Mansion on Highland Avenue, then moved to the carriage house of the Mirriam home on Hillside Avenue. The Piedmont Sunday School Association was founded, raised the funds for, and in 1909 built, Mowbray Hall, a permanent home for the Piedmont Sunday School, which stood till late in the century on Vista Avenue across from Piedmont City Hall. Mowbray Hall received a lot of use and was soon in demand for adult services!

Piedmont Community Church

Within a short period of time, it became evident that the growth of the church would exceed the capacity of Mowbray Hall. In November, 1913 the present site of the church was donated by its owners, Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Alexander, early leaders of the church. Plans were drawn for the present building around a central courtyard, and ground was broken in 1916. The church buildings were designed by architect Albert Farr over 75 years ago as a Mission-style complex and they received some renovations in the early 1990’s. Further renovation, expansion, and earthquake retrofitting of the buildings was undertaken in 2006 following the Founding Our Future Capital Campaign. The historical sanctuary is an airy yet intimate space with open wood beamed ceilings, hand-carved doors, specially commissioned stained glass windows, and a handsome elevated choir loft featuring a magnificent pipe organ.

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From the Piedmont Post, April 7 2021:

Wallace Alexander, Piedmont’s benefactor, gathered several businessmen of Piedmont in 1913 to purchase 1-1/2 acres opposite of Piedmont Park as well as the land for the commercial center. He hired Albert Farr to design the church in 1916 as well as the Piedmont Commercial Center, which included the first stores in Piedmont.

Junipero Serra and Jose Churriguera were inspirations for Albert Farr and he called his design “Mission” or “Spanish Colonial”. The church was designed around a courtyard with a central fountain and an outdoor pulpit (no longer standing). Supposedly, Albert Farr claimed the tiered fountain was an exact replica of an old Spanish fountain at the Santa Barbara Mission. The idea of the courtyard was to be landscaped with shrubs and creating a resting place for locals during the week.

"Farr designed the sanctuary with a domed ceiling, seating for 300, antique lamps, decorative screens to conceal the mechanisms of the organ, and elaborately carved Churrigueresque doors. He designed the south side of the courtyard (now the Guild Hall) as a Sunday School chapel with a stage, fireplace, and individual classrooms that open to the central space. The adjacent Guild Parlor, with its cozy fire- place, was designed as a meeting room for the Women’s Guild.


Other rooms around the courtyard provided meeting spaces for the Piedmont Chapter of the  American Red Cross, a cause quite important to Mary Alexander. During World War I, volunteers met in the Clara Barton Room and rolled bandages. The large basement was designed as a meeting place and drill hall for the Piedmont Boy Scouts, a group  supported by Wallace Alexander.


Farr’s design also included a kindergarten, pastor’s study, kitchen, stained glass windows, and an organ. The church was dedicated as the Piedmont Interdenominational Church on January 6, 1918, the first Sunday of the year. In 1927, the church became the Piedmont Community Church. The Christian Education building was added in 1949 and the Youth Chapel was built in the 1950s."

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Piedmont Church, a Late Example of the Spanish Colonial Type By ALBERT FARR, Architect


IN THE new Piedmont Church at Piedmont, California , is found an attempt to present a modified example of " Mission " or " Spanish Colonial," either name permitting a fairly accurate account of the origin of the style of the building. When the new world of South and Central America, the great center of which was Mexico, was found so rich in gold and silver , it received eager attention from the Spanish monarchs. Their favorites were sent out as rulers. Upon the sites of the Aztec temples were built cathedrals by the royal architects, decorated by skilled artisans and great painters of the day and filled with wonderful offerings by devout worshippers. In some instances votive offerings of entire churches of imposing size were made ; the Hidalgo owners devoting a large part of the wealth of their mines to these buildings. The people of Mexico had no mean conception of the arts of weaving, glazing and building, and they contributed much to the impressive culture of the New World.


Judging from the relics of this civilization in its paintings, furniture and fabrics brought from Europe and the Orient, our boasted metropolitan centers of today could make no comparison with such wealth.


From a careful survey of Spanish monuments it is to be seen that the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, built by José Churriguerra in the seventeenth century, was the principal inspiration of our Latin American buildings. The style thus created from mingling of Italian baroque, Moorish and Gothic , has been compared by eminent writers in the luxuriance of its imaginative quality to the entangled profusion of a tropical forest .


Later in the day began the Conquistadors' march to Nova California, accompanied by the triumphant followers of the Mother Church , whose monuments, simpler of necessity than the cathedrals of the South , are all that is left to us of this age of romance.


From such a source toiled forth the beloved Junipero Serra with his brown -gowned cohorts to create the California Missions, and no matter how we may disagree with his dogma we must attest his work that was bravely conceived and heroically done.


It is fitting, therefore , that we should recall to our warm hillsides, from which we dream adventure has fed, some note from the past, to en deavor, for ourselves as heirs, to perpetuate in our monuments the history of the land and to honor those who gave memorable names to the places we have learned to love.


This endeavor, then , has been made in the building of the Piedmont Church ; modifying the ancient scheme as little as possible but sufficiently to make it suitable for modern requirements.


So following our exemplars, about a large central court with a fountain of three superposed basins are carried arched cloisters, and closed on three sides with buildings, this court is to be suitably planted with shrubbery, also with its pulpit buttressed against the principal bell tower it is to serve as an open air auditorium when the weather is fair . No forbidden garden is this to be, but a playground and resting place for all throughout the week .


The court is lighted at night with quaintly framed lanterns modeled on Spanish originals. Enclosing the court on the south is a replica of an ancient Mexican cathedral-enclosing wall reached by an imposing flight of steps from a covered entrance placed on the street level.


Upon the left hand of the court is arranged the Sunday - school chapel. with a dark -stained beamed ceiling, in the form of a three-aisled church , the side aisles being closed with folding doors, forming class rooms. This chapel is provided with a stage for entertainments, provision being made for cinematograph displays as well . About the stage arch is carried a baroque design borrowed from an antique plaster model.


At one side of the room is a large recess with an open fireplace in the depths of which are placed Spanish benches.


Off this portion of the building is the Women's Guild and reception room pleasantly furnished and also with open fireplace. Leading in from a porte-cochère at the rear is the Sunday -school superintendent's office and a ladies ' rest room as well.


The large basement is to become a meeting place and drill -hall for the Boy Scouts. Showers will be installed and here boys and boys' interests may have a home. A tennis court in the yard will be for the use of all lovers of the game. The balance of this part of the building is devoted to quarters for the caretaker and for an oil-burner heating plant.


The central portion of the buildings and joined to the Sunday -school chapel by a vaulted passage, are a number of minor rooms, including kitchen, kindergarten and the Red Cross headquarters, which are a busy center in these emergency days.


The right wing of the building comprises the church proper, a single aisled structure , entered from the cloister at the north end of the building, and from the court through a quaint entrance at the south . This auditorium seats three hundred or more persons.


The doorways, choir screen , reading desk and diaconal seats are in the Churigueresque manner, decorated in gold and polychrome; the two doorways at the upper end of the church taking the places of the usual arrangement of side altars of earlier churches, seen in such familiar examples as the “ Dolores ” in San Francisco.


The chancel of the church is lighted by a low dome, of rare use in this State but common farther south . Upon each side of the dome the latticed screens in the archways were in the older buildings to shield the cloistered nuns from profane eyes ; here, however, they serve to conceal the mechanism of the beautifully toned organ. Above the chancel and behind the choir screen which serves as a railing is space for a large choir, the acoustic qualities of the building and the arrangement promising much in the way of organ recitals for music lovers.


At the side of the chancel is a vestry room, serving as reception room and library, fitted with book cases , large table and brightly covered chairs of a Spanish type. Above this room , by way of concealed stairs , is the pastor's study, with open fireplace , balcony and sunny outlook .


The interior of the building is lighted by indirect fixtures, the forms of antique sanctuary lamps being adapted to that purpose.


The gardening is still in embryo, but the architect's drawings show the building partly covered with masses of appropriate foliage, with here and there groups of tall trees echoing the lines of the bell towers.

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The Church was originally called the Piedmont Interdenominational Church, since its original Board of Trustees was made up of members from several Protestant denominations. Ransom Beach was a major benefactor of the Church, as was Wallace Alexander, who donated land to the Church. The inner courtyard contains a fountain decorated with Old and New Testament designs.

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Oakland Tribune - Tue- Dec. 25, 1917

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Oakland Tribune - Sat - Oct. 15, 1927

Oakland Tribune - Sun - Jun. 15, 1913

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First Church of Christ Scientist, 1926:


Oakland Tribune - Sat - Jul. 31, 1937:

Opening services will be held for the recently completed new church building, of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, at 801 Magnolia Avenue and Bonita Street, tomorrow at 11 a. m. and 3 p. m.

Organized in June, 1926, by a small group of Piedmont citizens, First Church's new home is the fruition of a ten-year dream. The auditorium is designed to accommodate 150 persons. There is a well-appointed reading room. A glass enclosed veranda provides an attractive classroom for the younger members of the Sunday School. There are also an office for the secretary and a committee room.

The grounds have been attractively landscaped.

Oakland Tribune - Sun - Nov. 7, 1937

Church to Present Exhibition of Culture Exhibits featuring education, music, art, drama and science will be displayed by the First Church of Christ, Scientist, at 801 Magnolia Avenue, Piedmont, beginning tomorrow and closing Friday. Sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, an international daily newspaper published by the Christian Science Publishing Society of Boston, Mass., the exhibit will be open daily from 1 to 6 p. m. Monday and Friday the closing hours will be 9 p. m.


Oakland Tribune - Sat - Jul. 31, 1937

First Church of Christ Scientist
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Corner of Grand and Fairview:
Grand Avenue Alliance Church / Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, 1953


The Polk's Oakland (California) city directory by R.L. Polk & Co Publication date 1928 lists the Grand Avenue Alliance Church at 1300 Grand Avenue. 

Grand Avenue Church

Oakland Tribune - Sun - Mar. 22, 1953


Oakland Tribune - Sat - Oct. 8, 1955

Oakland Tribune - Sun - Mar. 22, 1953

PIEDMONT, March 21.-Dedication of the new sanctuary and educational unit of the Grand Avenue Alliance Church, 1300 Grand Avenue, Sunday will be held Sunday at 2:45 p.m., according to the Rev. Everett Montgomery, pastor.

The new church church building, which has been under construction for eight months and which cost some $90,000, has been built in a colonial design. It will seat more than 500 people in the sanctuary and will provide ample class rooms and facilities for extensive youth work.

[...]The Christian and Missionary Alliance Church has ministered in the Oakland area for 62 years. The congregations met in rented auditoriums until 1910. In 1922 a new structure was erected on 33rd Street where services were held until 1948 when the lower unit of the present structure was completed.

The Alliance is noted for its Bible-centered teaching and world-wide missionary activities.

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Oakland Tribune - Sun - Mar. 14, 1954:

Expert on Communism To Speak Wednesday

Dr. Fred Schwarz, noted authority on communism, will speak at the Grand Avenue Alliance Church, 1300 Grand Ave., Wednesday at 7:45 p.m. His topic is, "The Communist Blueprint for the Conquest of the United States."

The San Francisco Examiner - Fri - Dec. 11, 1970:

Socialite Killed in Car Crash
Mrs. George Heath, 44, a socially prominent Piedmont resident, was killed and her 3 1/2 year old daughter, Holly, critically injured today in a one-car accident on Grand Avenue in the East Bay city.


Piedmont Police Inspector Lee Lamp said Mrs. Heath, of 75 Hazel Lane, was northbound when her car careened into the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, 1300 Grand Ave Mrs. Heath was dead on arrival at Highland Hospital, Oakland. The child was taken to the Children's Hospital of the East Bay.

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Before the Kehilla Community Synagogue, the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church was on Grand Avenue.

Oakland Tribune - Wed - Nov. 19, 1975

I can't find a record for why the church closed and Kehilla opened in its place.

Kehilla Community Synagogue on Grand Ave:

Kehilla Community Synagogue is a Jewish spiritual home for politically progressive people. Our approach to progressive politics is based on a spiritual mandate to heal and repair the world, a central theme in Judaism, by showing compassion to all, and actively working towards social justice, peace and environmental sanity.

This is the core of what Rabbi Burt Jacobson envisioned when he started Kehilla School, and later Kehilla Community Synagogue, in 1984. For more than a quarter of a century, Kehilla has lived — and continues to live — this vision through our liturgy, our music, our rituals, our inclusive and egalitarian community, our advocacy and social action, our education of our children.

Rabbi Burt was also keenly aware of the sense of isolation many people experience in their day-to-day lives, and recognized that tikkun olam (healing the world) also requires creating and sustaining community.

East Bay Times, January 27, 2021:

Kehilla ( is a progressive synagogue on Grand Avenue, a “no-judgment zone” welcoming to all, especially people of color and the LGBTQ community. It is active in social justice and has a newly formed homeless action committee engaged in advocacy work in Oakland, donating clothing, sleeping bags and other supplies to distribute.

Kehilla Community Synagogue
Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi

Historical Marker Database:

Corpus Christi parish was formally opened on November 24, 1929 as part of what was then the archdiocese of San Francisco. Masses were held in a cottage on St. James Drive until January 11, 1931, when a small church and rectory opened at its current location. In November of 1933, Father Edwin J. Keller, began his 32 years at Corpus Christi and quickly started to plan for the construction of our present-day church. The new church was dedicated on Sunday March 8, 1936.

In 1962, the church was renovated and extended by 55 feet, doubling its size. Seating capacity increased to 1000 parishioners. Construction of a new rectory commenced in August 1966 and was completed in May 1967. We as a parish are thankful for the families that came before us for building a community we can call our second home. Father Leo Edgerly Jr., appointed in 1999, summarized the history of the church in a single sentence, "They sowed the seeds; we reap the benefits."

Monastery that never happened

Oakland Tribune - Sun - Mar. 9, 1919:

Builded on Mount Saint Margaret Mary, in the Piedmont Hills, there soon will be completed in the Monastery of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Monastery and its surrounding are reproduced here from an architect’s drawing made by Louis Christian Mullgart, who divined the plans for this place of meditation.


Oakland Tribune - Sun - Mar. 9, 1919

(The monastery was never built)

Monastery of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Piedmont Hills of California.
Mary Lape Fogg; Edward J Hanna; Irving Foster Morrow; Louis Christian Mullgardt; John Henry Nash.
Published by John Henry Nash, San Francisco, 1919

#75 of 500

Piedmont Ave, not Piedmont, Ca

While the postcard says, "Piedmont" the Chapel of the Chimes is actually in Oakland and on Piedmont Ave:

Chapel of the Chimes Oakland (CCO), founded in 1909 as a crematory and columbarium, provides funeral, cemetery and cremation services for families in Oakland, Calif. and around the Bay Area. The main building reflects a 1928 redevelopment designed by Morgan, the first woman architect licensed in California.

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