Epiphany Conservation Trust
Press Release Announcing Partners in Preservation Program
L.A. Church to Compete for Preservation Funding in $2 Million Contest
Church of the Epiphany—Advocate for Immigrant Rights and Birthplace of Chicano Movement—Among 20 Sites Nationwide
Los Angeles, September 24, 2018—The Church of the Epiphany, a beloved landmark and architectural treasure, is one of 20 sites nationwide selected to participate in the 2018 Partners in Preservation: Main Streets Program. Sponsored by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, along with Main Street America, the program will grant a total of $2 million in preservation funding to the historic places that receive the most votes from the public during a one-month competition that ends October 26.
The church is the only site from Southern California selected for the program, which focuses this year on places that contributed to the diversity of the country and the struggle for equal rights.
“We desperately need these funds to continue restoring one of the most important symbols of the Chicano movement in California,” said Father Tom Carey, vicar. “The church is a pillar of social justice activism on behalf of the Latino community and provides important services beyond spiritual support such as a food bank and community garden, tutoring, and health care and legal clinics for immigrants, refugees and our naturalized parishioners—all of whom face harsh realities today because of this Administration’s heartless policies.”
Located in Lincoln Heights, the Church of the Epiphany is the oldest operating Episcopal Church in Los Angeles and was designated as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 2005 by the City Council for its pivotal role in the Chicano civil rights movement of the 1960s. La Raza, an underground pro-Chicano newspaper, was printed in the church basement, which also served as a birthplace of the Brown Berets, Chicano activists who protested Vietnam, police brutality, educational discrimination and the mistreatment of farm workers. The church served as the L.A. headquarters for the United Farm Workers and as a planning base for both the 1968 East L.A. Chicano student walkouts and the 1970s Chicano Moratorium anti-Vietnam War protest, where former LA Times columnist Ruben Salazar was killed by LA County sheriff’s deputies.
Built in 1887 by English architect Ernest Coxhead, the original church was converted to a parish hall after a new sanctuary was erected in 1913 by architect Arthur Benton, resulting in a mix of historic styles that include Romanesque and Gothic Revival.
Today, the church celebrates Sunday masses in both Spanish and English and continues to blend spiritual nourishment, practical support and social justice advocacy for Lincoln Heights’ largely immigrant residents and the broader Los Angeles community. But in recent years the church has fallen into disrepair.
“The roof is leaking, our historic basement is crumbling and the electrical and heating systems are in urgent need of updating,” said Father Richard Estrada, adding that the basement rehabilitation is imperative to protect a collection of historic photographs and documents from Epiphany’s social justice activism, stored there as part of the People’s History Project. “Epiphany and its cultural heritage are too important to the Latino community to let this church slip into a permanent state of dilapidation. Please vote for Epiphany. We need your help.”
The polls open September 24, 2018 at VoteEpiphany.org, where people can vote for L.A./Epiphany and sign up to receive voting reminders by email or text. There are no age restrictions and voters can cast as many as five votes a day every day for their favorite site. An open house, featuring music, dancers, tours and food, will be held at the church on October 20 to promote voting and celebrate the church. The public can also vote at VoteYourMainStreet.org, hosted by the program’s media partner National Geographic.
“The Church of the Epiphany is incredibly important to the history of Los Angeles,” said Linda Dishman, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Conservancy, a key partner in the campaign. “It has architectural significance, yes, but even more so, it embodies a seminal period in our cultural history—and it continues its legacy of social justice and community service every day. Voting for Epiphany is so easy, and it can make all the difference in preserving this beloved landmark and keeping it a vital part of Lincoln Heights and Los Angeles.”
The church has applied for the maximum grant allowed by the Partners in Preservation program of $150,000. If the funds are raised, they would serve as a foundation for a capital and fundraising campaign launched last year. That campaign was initiated after the church was selected to participate in a grant-matching program for capital building projects at historic houses of worship by the National Fund for Sacred Places.
Escher GuneWardena Architecture Inc. of Los Angeles will oversee the restoration at the direction of the Epiphany Conservation Trust, a nonprofit organization founded in 2010 to raise money to restore the church. The firm completed phase one, including restoration of the church’s stained glass windows, with funding principally from art auctions in 2011 organized by artist Sharon Lockhart and curator Alma Ruiz of the Museum of Contemporary Art, and in 2014, organized by ‘West of Rome’ director Emi Fontana and Los Angeles County Museum of Art curator Rita Gonzalez. Additional visibility was brought to the church’s legacy as an inspiration for self- expression, activism and equality through last year’s “The Art of Protest: Epiphany and the Culture of Empowerment,” featuring Chicano artists from the 60s and 70s as well as younger artists, and co-curated by Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Sofia Gutierrez, artist Ricardo Reyes, historian Rosalio Muñoz and architect Ravi GuneWardena.
In addition to storing the People’s History Project, the renovated basement would become home to the legal and health care clinics held regularly at the church. Every Sunday afternoon, Epiphany sponsors a pro bono attorney who helps individuals and families navigate the immigration system. In addition, the church partners with Eviction Defense Network to provide legal advice to residents who face eviction as a result of the gentrification of East Los Angeles.
Epiphany clergy regularly accompany immigrants facing deportation to court hearings, have been arrested at detention centers for protesting inhumane immigration policies, host an ongoing support group for refugees who have been seriously injured on their way to the U.S., and regularly appeal to city officials on issues ranging from homelessness to affordable housing.
Winners will be announced on October 29. Los Angeles’ historic Formosa Café was a winner in last year’s competition. About the Church of the Epiphany Founded in 1887, the Church of the Epiphany is the oldest sustaining Episcopal congregation in Los Angeles. Since the late 19th century, the Church of the Epiphany has borne witness to the transformation of Lincoln Heights from an Anglo suburb into a Latinx community with a mix of immigrants from Mexico and Central America, as well as from Southeast Asia. It reflects not only the rich architectural heritage of its neighborhood, but also deeply important social and political developments in the latter half of the 20th century.
About the Epiphany Conservation Trust
The Epiphany Conservation Trust is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the living legacy of the Church of the Epiphany in Lincoln Heights through renovation and restoration of its historical buildings, the re-telling of its history in the struggle for human rights, and in support of programs for education, civil rights and economic justice.
About Partners in Preservation
Partners in Preservation is a community-based partnership, created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express, to raise awareness of the importance of preserving historic places and their role in sustaining local communities. To-date, it has committed over $22 million in support of more than 200 historic sites across the country. Partners in Preservation: Main Streets seeks to inspire long-term support from local citizens for sites on Main Street.
About National Fund for Sacred Places
National Fund for Sacred Places is a grant-making program of Partners for Sacred Places and the National Trust for Historic Preservation through which about 50 houses of worship will be awarded a total of $10 million over four years beginning in 2016.
Photographs of the church and its history are available at https://tinyurl.com/voteepiphanypress