Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist

The former Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist is significant as both an example of modern ecclesiastical architecture and as a prominent, local example of Christian Science architecture from the postwar era. 

Constructed between 1959 and 1960 and designed by local architect Howard Elwell, the distinctive, fan-shaped church building is dramatically sited with a curved facade oriented toward the corner and grand entrances off both streets accessed through arched portals.

The building is constructed of reinforced brick and reinforced concrete tilt-up panels, while the amphitheater-style auditorium was carefully designed for acoustical efficiency and features a fan-shaped accordion ceiling and canted rear walls. The lower level of the building contained the Reading Room.

The landscaping is carefully designed to accentuate the unique geometry of the building and sloping site with curved retaining walls and raised planting beds.

The congregation of Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist was incorporated in 1909 under the name First Church of Christ, Scientist, Hollywood.

Following Hollywood’s consolidation with Los Angeles in 1910, the congregation changed its name to Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist, Los Angeles to reflect Christian Science nomenclature; the ordinal number in the congregation’s title denoting its order of founding within a particular municipality or jurisdiction. While the Fifth Church congregation sold the property in 2008, the site remains one of the earliest and longest serving locations associated with Christian Science in Los Angeles County.

The congregation’s decision to build the current edifice in 1959-60, after outgrowing their original 1,000 seat, 1916 Beaux Arts edifice on the same site, reflects the postwar growth of the region and the prominence of Fifth Church and its Hollywood location. Actress Ginger Rogers was among those in the Hollywood community who attended services at Fifth Church.

While many of the earlier Christian Science congregations throughout Los Angeles continued to worship in their original structures, Fifth Church became one of the few to erect a new and modern structure.  Elsewhere throughout the city, new congregations were formed and built new structures to serve expanding suburban communities.

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