Allison Lyons, Architectural Resources Group, Inc.
The South Los Angeles SurveyLA team was incredibly excited to document this building, located on Martin Luther King Boulevard in the Exposition Park neighborhood. There are many architecturally and culturally significant churches in the South LA survey area, but this one stands out for many reasons. First, it is an excellent and intact example of the Romanesque Revival style. The marble and cast stone details around the door and windows are exceptional features of the style. Additionally, the building features a copper dome, giving it prominence and distinction along the boulevard.
Perhaps more noteworthy, however, is the building’s cultural history. The Hebrew inscriptions in the entablature over the door, as well as the footprint of the building, tell us that this church was originally constructed as a temple for the local Sephardic Jewish population. This community moved away, but the building found a new tenant: the Missionary Baptist Church. This is incredibly common in Los Angeles; one religious group moves out and another group moves in. However, it is rare to find a building that retains the many physical features of its past tenants.
The curious SurveyLA team discovered a bit more about the Greater New Vision Missionary Baptist Church building by doing a little research using the historical Los Angeles Times and historic Sanborn Fire Insurance maps (available through databases that are free for all Los Angeles Public Library card holders). The building was dedicated in 1932 as the home of Temple Tifereth Israel Sephardic Synagogue. As a Sephardic congregation, the members traced their roots to Spain and Portugal prior to the expulsion of the Jewish population in 1492. The members of the synagogue chose designs for their Los Angeles synagogue that referenced historic Romanesque-style synagogues found in Spain and Portugal. This building clearly has a story to tell; if you know more, please share!