Published: Last Updated Thursday, January 29, 2009 10:03 PM PST
The church that her grandfather designed still stands proudly at the corner of Wilson Avenue and Louise Street, and every time Pamela Cressey, a Virginia archaeologist, returns for a visit, she marvels at his work.
Not only did Charles Cressey design the expansion of the First Baptist Church, he also designed the original Oakmont Country Club and several other Southland projects.
“My father [Charles B. Cressey] said he watched my grandfather direct steam shovels when the country club was built,” Pamela Cressey said.
Charles Cressey left his British homeland about 1909 and worked briefly in San Diego before joining the Roy L. Kent Co. in 1920. He lived on Vine Street with his wife, Alice, and their two sons, Arthur and Charles Bernard.
The church, now freshly painted and rejuvenated, hearkens back to the heady days of the 1920s when the city grew rapidly and churches and schools scrambled for extra space.
The church began in 1904 with 18 founders. A meeting hall, which still stands, was built in 1912 and held 300 people, but it was rapidly outgrown.
Early in 1924, at a church gathering at the Tuesday Afternoon Club, architect Cressey presented plans to build an auditorium — seating 1,000 — adjacent to the old hall.
About $20,000 was pledged that night, adding to $126,000 previously raised, and members voted to adopt the plans. Kent headed the finance committee, and George H. Bentley led the building committee, according to a March 8, 1924, Glendale Evening News.
The architect completed specifications for the brick and stucco edifice in November 1924. He also supervised the construction.
“My grandfather was quite eclectic,” Pamela Cressey said. “As was true for the day, he not only designed buildings, but got them constructed, too.”
Charles Cressey turned the first shovel of dirt at a groundbreaking the following April. Thirteen months later, the building was complete, at a cost of $175,000.
The dedication service broke attendance records, “with enthusiasm that is seldom manifest at the opening of an edifice built for the worship of God,” according to an article in the May 3, 1926, edition of the Glendale Evening News.
At the morning and evening services, the seating capacity of the new auditorium and the overflow room [the old meeting hall] was filled to capacity. The church was said to be one of the most beautiful in Southern California.
“Experts declared that architecturally, this structure could hardly be surpassed,” according to an article in the May 1, 1926, edition of the Glendale Evening News. “The crowning feature was the beautiful auditorium, finished in light shades of gray and blue-gray with oak pews and woodwork.” Architect Cressey also designed the windows, made of imported English cathedral glass by Judson Studios.
“My grandfather was deaf in both ears, but was a remarkable man — full of conversation, poetry and mathematical problem-solving,” Pamela Cressey said.
From the 1940s on, the senior Cresseys lived in San Francisco with their oldest son Arthur.
“I only saw them a few times,” Pamela Cressey said. “My grandfather was fastidious, always properly dressed with a goatee immaculately shaped. He could cut a pear or apple with a sharp knife without any juice coming out and with perfect symmetry.”
“As far as I know, the church is the only building [by Charles Cressey] still standing in Glendale, except for our home at 825 Arden — where I was born,” Pamela Cressey said.