EDITOR’S NOTE: Following an unprecedented cross-country evangelistic tour that she had launched in 1918, Aimee Semple McPherson returned to Los Angeles—one of the many cities on her itinerary, and where a small home had been donated to her – sensing God’s leading to build a ministry base in the burgeoning metropolis. In part one of a three-part series from her memoirs, Sister Aimee shares the incredible story of the building of Angelus Temple, which was dedicated in 1923 and became the launching pad of Foursquare’s expansion worldwide.
Now comes the story of the building of beautiful Angelus Temple in Echo Park, which stands as a monument to the power of the living God.
For 14 years, we had traveled about the world. During the months of constant travel, our hearts were oft times filled with wonder as to why the Lord had led us to “the little house that God built” [in Los Angeles].
Then it was that the Lord, most gently but unquestionably, began to reveal to me His will, showing me that there had been a method in the plan of His leading; and that in this City of the Angels, we were to “Build a House Unto the Lord.” The Lord had shown us that this “House Unto the Lord” was to be built in Los Angeles, whither tourists coming constantly from all parts of the earth could receive the message, then return to their homes, bearing the message in their hearts.
“Come let us build a house unto the Lord!” So urgently did the words ring in our ears that one day [my mother and I] got in our automobile and set out in search of land. We had been driving slowly, and had come to the entrance to Echo Park. Lying just before us was a circular piece of property. Something leaped within our hearts saying, “This is the place.”
Just a few doors away, we found a small real estate office and inquired from the elderly gentleman who answered the door, as to the land in question.
He replied: “There is lots of land around this park for sale, but you have picked the only piece of property that is not on the market. An elderly lady, who is wealthy and has many property holdings, refuses to part with any of it. Other people have tried to get this land and have offered high prices. She answered no.”
“Then, praise the Lord!” we answered. “The Lord has been keeping this property for us, and His word is confirmed.”
A few hours later, my mother suddenly felt impressed [to stop what she was doing] and, with a brother, she walked over to the park to look at this property. Lo and behold! A freshly painted “For Sale” sign stood in the center of the land.
Quickly the news was brought to me, and later, as we stood on the lot, I took a pencil and sketched upon the signboard a diagram of the way the building should be built.
“See, Mother, the property is shaped just like a megaphone, the platform and choir will be in this corner–the aisles would run like this–if we put in a balcony, it would go here.”
The rest of the story reads almost like a fairy tale. We found our way to the owner’s home. The elderly lady who owned so much land had suddenly decided she was land poor, and of all of her holdings, this was the one piece she had decided to part with.
Within a short time, the land was purchased. We felt that considering the throngs that had attended the meetings in other cities, we could not erect a building with a seating capacity of less than 5,000. Here the Lord brought into our lives Mr. Brook Hawkins, builder and contractor of the Winter Construction Company, and into whose competent hands we put the drawings and the erection of the building.
The building was constructed under class “A” rulings, being composed entirely of concrete and steel, and having in addition to the great expanse of its main floor, two balconies and an immense dome, which reared its lofty canopy some 110 feet from the floor, and which is said to be the largest unsupported concrete dome on the American continent.
Sister Aimee put $5,000 down to start the digging for the building’s foundation. The rest of the needed funds were received from various evangelistic campaigns, just in time to begin each new step of the process—making the building of Angelus Temple totally debt-free.
Adapted from This Is That by Aimee Semple McPherson, copyright 1923. Published by the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
Read part two: The Angelus Temple Story: Dedicating the Temple
Read part three: The Angelus Temple Story: A Day in the Life