This Pasadena church is on its way to becoming a historic landmark

It opened in October 1930 with prayers, psalms and a word of appreciation: “We offer our heartiest thanks to our members and friends who have made this church possible, to church boards, committees, all donors and helpers.”

Ninety-two years later, Mount Olive Lutheran Church is now on the cusp of becoming a landmark, after the city’s Historic Preservation Commission agreed on Tuesday, Oct. 4, that “it embodies the distinctive characteristics of a historic resource property type, period and architectural style.”

Next stop: Pasadena City Council for approval of the commission’s recommendation.

The church, with its troweled stucco exterior, arched openings bell tower and wood entry double doors, sits at 1118 N. Allen Ave. — and still a gem in a city of architectural jewels. It’s almost California mission-like — a reminder of the mission revival style that defines other historic hubs in Pasadena.

And it’s that “excellent example” of the Mission Revival style that make it significant, officials said.

Mount Olive Lutheran Church has been recommended for landmark status. (City of Pasadena)

It was designed by Frederick Kennedy Jr., who worked as an instructor of drawing, lettering and surveying at Caltech, from 1915-1917.

By 1921, he’d established his own practice, working on projects such as Pasadena’s Throop Memorial Church.

Under the landmark designation, protection would be given to all exterior features, officials said.

But it has gems inside, too, including the church’s piano, which is older than the church, and an organ built by parishioners.

Much of the church is much as it was back in 1930, including not having air conditioning, said Ed Possner, church president.

“But we love it, we maintain it very vigorously and we don’t change anything inside or outside because we love it,” Possner said.

Church officials applied for the landmark designation — much in part fueled by an influx of younger congregants who want to see the site protected.

With the landmark status, the church would eventually be eligible to fall under the Mills Act, legislation that grants participating local governments the authority to enter into contracts with owners of qualified historic properties who actively participate in the restoration and maintenance of their historic properties while receiving property tax relief.

Andrew Salimian, preservation director for Pasadena Heritage, was pleased with the recommendation.

“I want to thank the church for landmarking,” he told the commission. “I hope it’s here for another hundred years.”

Commissioner Caryn Hofer said she hoped the church’s example would encourage other local churches to step forward for historical designation.

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