Photos inside the historic Ohr Shalom building.

On Sunday I enjoyed a tour of the Ohr Shalom building in San Diego’s Bankers Hill neighborhood. The historic 1925 building, acquired by the Ohr Shalom Synagogue in 2002, was one of many sites around the city that were open to the public during the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s 2019 OPEN HOUSE SAN DIEGO.

The Ohr Shalom building was designed by architect William H. Wheeler, who is also known for downtown’s iconic Balboa Theatre building.

According to description provided by the San Diego Architectural Foundation: “With its dominant Moorish-style dome suspended high above an octagonal sanctuary embellished with Middle Eastern decorative motifs, the Synagogue . . . is one of the foremost examples of Mediterranean Revival, an architectural style that caught momentum around the mid-1920s.”

I learned that the synagogue was originally built for Congregation Beth Israel by M. Trepte & Son. It is constructed of steel-framed concrete and hollow clay tile, which was innovative for its time. Inside the sanctuary, which features a free-standing balcony, the lines are clean and simple, and worshipers are touched by light shining through the dome and a variety of stained glass windows and panels. Illustrations in the beautiful glass include the Ten Commandments, the menorah and Star of David, and a depiction of the twelve tribes of Israel.

During our tour we were allowed to stand near the pulpit. We were privileged to view one of the Torah scrolls and hear a sample of its reading.

Here are some photos that provide a feel for what it’s like to enter the Ohr Shalom Synagogue.

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History and faith at St. Agnes Catholic Church.

On Saturday I stepped inside St. Agnes Catholic Church. It was one of three sites I visited in Point Loma during the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s 2019 OPEN HOUSE SAN DIEGO.

Donna Alves-Calhoun, author of the book Portuguese Community of San Diego, told me a little about the history of this church and the people whose lives are deeply linked to it.

I learned that an original church was built in 1908 by Portuguese fisherman families that had settled in La Playa, near the entrance to San Diego Bay. It was difficult for them to travel to Old Town or La Jolla to attend church services, so they built a small mission church in Point Loma.

In 1933 the new Mediterranean-style St. Agnes Catholic Church was built at the same location, using funds donated by the crews of local fishing boats.

The beautiful church’s bell tower was decorated with an illuminated statue of Our Lady of Good Voyage, which could be seen at a distance. Like a beacon it guided the Portuguese fishermen safely home. I also learned the extraordinary stained glass windows were made in Ireland, and the religious statues placed in corners of the church are from Italy.

After I moved around the church, looking up at the ceiling and its dark wooden beams painted faintly with tulips, Donna explained that many Dutch settled in the Azores. Like many who have descended from San Diego’s Portuguese fishermen, she herself possesses a measure of Dutch ancestry.

During the annual Festa do Espírito Santo celebration, a crown kept in a glass case near the altar, symbol of the supreme dominion of the Holy Spirit, is brought with other holy objects in a ceremonial procession from the U.P.S.E.S. Chapel and Hall to St. Agnes Catholic Church. The bringing of the “Coroa” remembers an historical gesture of compassion by Portugal’s beloved Santa Isabel, the Peacemaker and Holy Queen.

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Golden light splashes upon two famous ships.

Sunlight brightens west-facing art glass windows on the passenger deck of the steam ferry Berkeley.
Sunlight brightens west-facing art glass windows inside the passenger deck of the steam ferry Berkeley.

The days are becoming shorter.

Hoping to enjoy every last drop of daylight, this evening I lingered by San Diego Bay.

As the sun neared the horizon, golden light splashed upon two famous museum ships: the steam ferry Berkeley, and the aircraft carrier USS Midway.

The beautiful art glass windows of the Berkeley remind one of the glowing stained glass found inside cathedrals.
The amazing art glass windows of the Berkeley remind one of glowing stained glass found inside cathedrals.
Light streams up along the historic ship's simple ceiling.
Light streams up along the historic ferryboat’s ceiling.
Splashes of sunlight reflect from the floor, woodwork and empty benches inside the passenger deck of Berkeley.
Splashes of golden sunlight reflect from the floor, woodwork and empty benches inside the passenger deck of Berkeley.
The sun nears the horizon beyond the USS Midway Museum, reflecting from tranquil San Diego Bay.
The sun nears the horizon beyond the USS Midway Museum, reflecting like a band of gold on San Diego Bay.
Late sunlight splashes the immense bow of the USS Midway with gold.
Golden sunlight splashes the immense bow of the USS Midway.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

An architectural masterpiece in San Diego.

An architectural masterpiece, the First Church of Christ, Scientist building by Irving Gill.
An architectural masterpiece, the First Church of Christ, Scientist building by Irving Gill.

The First Church of Christ, Scientist building, designed by renowned architect Irving Gill and completed in 1910, is considered by many to be a masterpiece. I often pause a minute or two to admire its simple, rhythmic beauty when I walk near Second Avenue and Laurel Street in Bankers Hill.

During the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s 2018 OPEN HOUSE event a couple weekends ago, I ventured inside the church for the very first time.

I was interested to learn that when it was completed over a century ago, the mayor of San Diego considered the building such an amazing architectural accomplishment that he showed it to visiting dignitaries. I also learned that the church underwent a “modern” remodel in the 1950’s, which removed archways, windows and the beautiful glass dome. Thankfully the building was restored to its original appearance in 1998.

To my fascinated eyes, the arches, windows and tower are elegant, like notes of music. The white stucco enhances every perfect line and curve, as if a cloud were carved precisely with the architect’s pencil.

I took some photos! Read the captions for additional information.

Simple arches and lines mount skyward like a cubist painting.
Simple arches and lines mount skyward like a cubist painting.
First Church of Christ Scientist 1909. I believe the 1904 signifies the year of their first small downtown building, which stands at Third Avenue and Ash Street and is now occupied by the attorney King Aminpour.
First Church of Christ Scientist 1909. I believe the 1904 signifies the year of their first small downtown building, which stands at Third Avenue and Ash Street and is now occupied by the attorney King Aminpour.
Balloons outside the entrance indicate this church is a participant in the annual San Diego Architectural Foundation's OPEN HOUSE.
Balloons outside the entrance indicate this church is a participant in the annual San Diego Architectural Foundation OPEN HOUSE.
Arched windows inside admit light and create an impression of heavenly space.
Arched windows inside admit light and create an impression of heavenly space. I’m reminded of a jewel’s bright facets.
Like a crown of gold, organ pipes dominate the altar of a light-filled sanctuary.
Like a crown of gold, organ pipes dominate the altar of a light-filled sanctuary.
The amazing stained glass dome above the church sanctuary.
The amazing stained glass dome above the church sanctuary.
A large poster containing photographs of the building's 1950's appearance and historic restoration. (Click image to enlarge.)
A large poster containing photographs of the building’s 1950’s appearance and historic restoration. (Click image to enlarge.)
The poster's legend. The restoration brought back much of the natural light admitted by the original archways and glass dome.
The poster’s legend. The restoration brought back much of the natural light admitted by the original archways and glass dome.
Photo of the sanctuary in the 1950's. Perhaps at the time this was considered tasteful, but today it seems very drab.
Photo of the sanctuary in the 1950’s. Perhaps at the time this was considered tasteful, but today it seems very drab.
Old photo of this famous Irving Gill building, the dome just visible on the rooftop.
Old photo of this famous Irving Gill building, the dome just visible on the rooftop.
I was told these are some of the original Irving Gill blueprints. The are displayed with other documents and historical photos in a hallway near the church sanctuary.
I was told these are some of the original Irving Gill blueprints. The are displayed with other documents and historical photos in a hallway near the church sanctuary.
An architectural marvel in San Diego's Bankers Hill neighborhood.
An architectural marvel in San Diego’s Bankers Hill neighborhood.

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A quick peek inside St. Paul’s Cathedral.

View of St. Paul's Cathedral in Bankers Hill from across Fifth Avenue.
View of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral from across Fifth Avenue.

I swung by St. Paul’s Cathedral in Bankers Hill a couple weekends ago during the San Diego Architectural Foundation 2018 OPEN HOUSE event. A friendly gentleman named Bob who belongs to this Episcopal church showed me the original Great Hall which was completed in 1929, then the impressive interior of the cathedral, or “big house” as he called it, which was finally completed in 1951.

St. Paul’s Cathedral was designed by architect Philip Frohman, who is best remembered as the designer of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The building contains elements of both Gothic and Romanesque architecture. The original pipes of the historic church organ date from 1887. They were brought by ship around Cape Horn, to serve as the first organ in Old Town San Diego.

The cathedral was visited by Queen Elizabeth II in 1983 during her trip to San Diego aboard Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia. I was told that she spoke to the congregation and enjoyed listening to Evensong.

I gleaned a few odd bits of information during the informal tour and have included them in my photo captions.

Looking north at the impressive cathedral and its stained glass windows from Nutmeg Street.
Looking north at the impressive cathedral and its many stained glass windows from Nutmeg Street.
St. Paul's Cathedral in San Diego was designed by famed architect Philip Frohman.
St. Paul’s Cathedral in San Diego was designed by famed architect Philip Frohman.
Ladies exit through an arcade of elegant columns.
Ladies exit through an arcade of elegant columns.
A gentleman in the church's courtyard greeted visitors for the weekend architectural event.
A gentleman in the church’s courtyard greeted visitors during the weekend architectural event.
Construction of St. Paul's Parish House or Great Hall began in 1928.
Construction of St. Paul’s parish house or Great Hall began in 1928.
The most notable thing I saw in the Great Hall is the incredible original wooden beamed ceiling, which is showing signs of age.
The most notable thing I saw in the Great Hall is the incredible original wooden beamed ceiling, which is showing signs of age.
Turning my camera for another shot of this amazing ceiling.
Turning my camera for another shot of this amazing ceiling.
Sunlight enters through a rose window.
Sunlight enters through a rose window.
A plaque in the courtyard area between the Great Hall and cathedral. This garden commemorates the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh to this church on February 27, 1983.
A plaque in the courtyard area between the Great Hall and cathedral. This garden commemorates the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh to this church on February 27, 1983.
Inside the beautiful cathedral, looking east from the nave toward the chancel and historic pipe organ.
Inside the beautiful cathedral, looking east from the nave toward the chancel and historic Great Organ.
People have quietly entered the sacred place. The gray interior walls allow the stained glass lancet windows, created by Judson Studios in Pasadena, to fill the eyes of worshipers.
People have quietly entered the sacred place. The gray interior walls allow light from the stained glass lancet windows, created by Judson Studios in Pasadena, to fill the eyes of worshipers.
This small Lady Chapel to the east was built in 1975. It is used for weddings and other celebrations. It contains a much smaller organ.
This small Lady Chapel to the east was built in 1975. It’s used for weddings and other celebrations. It contains a smaller organ.
The cathedra, or bishop's throne, off to one side.
The cathedra, or bishop’s seat, off to one side.
More resplendent stained glass, like celestial visions shining through darkness.
More resplendent stained glass, like celestial visions shining through darkness.

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Beautiful sanctuary of historic San Diego church.

Today I visited six truly amazing buildings in Bankers Hill and Balboa Park. All six are featured locations in the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s 2018 OPEN HOUSE event.

I enjoyed fascinating looks inside architectural gems–special looks the public seldom experiences. I took lots of photos and intend to tour a few more iconic locations tomorrow. So I have a lot of blogging to do the next week or two!

My very first stop this morning was the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego, located in Bankers Hill on Date Street, between Third and Fourth Avenue. The friendly church manager greeted visitors at the front door, and he was very nice to give me a short tour inside the building.

The first thing I learned was that this is actually the First Presbyterian Church’s third structure in San Diego. The initial congregation came together in 1869 in what was then called New Town–now downtown San Diego. The first church structure was built at Eighth and D Streets on land donated by Alonzo Horton. As the membership grew, a second church building was begun in 1887, on property adjacent to the first. Unfortunately the land boom of that time soon came to an end. Somehow that building was completed in spite of financial difficulties.

The present building, the focus of this tour, had its first service in 1913 in the Assembly Room, about a year before the amazing sanctuary was finally completed and this third church was dedicated. Located near the base of Bankers Hill overlooking downtown, the imposing cathedral-like structure incorporates huge stained glass windows that were preserved from the previous building, including the exquisite central panels Christ the Sower.

Sowing seeds of compassion in our community, the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego makes it a point to feed many of the homeless downtown–almost 250 souls every Sunday. These good folks practice what they preach.

Like many grand old churches, the exterior of the present-day building might appear a bit worn by time and weather, but the interior, with its warm wood and glowing stained glass at every turn, seems like a tiny glimpse of heaven.

I must say I was really impressed by the grace, grandeur and beauty of the sanctuary. And the kind smile of my tour guide.

View of the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego from Fourth Avenue. The stained glass window shines its light into a very beautiful sanctuary.
View of the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego from Fourth Avenue. A large, historic stained glass window shines its light into a very beautiful sanctuary.
View of the church's south side along Date Street.
Partial view of the church’s south side along Date Street.
Plaque on building indicates the First Presbyterian Church was erected in 1913.
Plaque on building indicates the First Presbyterian Church was erected in 1913.
An historical photo near the church office shows the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego about a hundred years ago, in what was then considered the outskirts of town.
Historical photo near the church office shows the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego about a hundred years ago, in what was then considered the outskirts of town.
Entering doors that lead to the magnificent sanctuary.
Entering doors that lead to the magnificent sanctuary.

The church's nearly 6,000 pipe Casavant organ rises like rays of silvery light crowning the chancel.
The church’s nearly 6,000 pipe Casavant organ rises like rays of silvery light crowning the chancel.
Heading up some handsome stairs near colorful stained glass. We will emerge on the sanctuary's balcony.
Heading up some stairs near colorful stained glass. We will emerge on the sanctuary’s balcony.

One of the finest examples of stained glass in San Diego shines light into the historic church.
One of the finest examples of stained glass in San Diego shines light into the historic church.
A scene from the Bible, to the glory of God.
A scene from the Bible, to the glory of God.
The likeness of Christ, created in memory of one of the faithful.
The likeness of Christ, in memory of one of the faithful.
A place for religious faith and worship. Amazing beauty inside the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego.
A place for religious faith and worship. Amazing beauty inside the First Presbyterian Church of San Diego.

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Colorful stained glass windows of The Abbey.

Stained glass window and reflection in a mirror inside The Abbey on Fifth Avenue, originally the Park Place Methodist Episcopal Church.
Stained glass window, and its reflection in a mirror, inside The Abbey on Fifth Avenue.  The building was originally the Park Place Methodist Episcopal Church.

I’ve walked past The Abbey on Fifth Avenue many times over the years. I often pause to admire the monumental building’s Classical Revival style exterior and take a photo or two. But last weekend I finally ventured inside.

That’s because The Abbey was open to the public during the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s OPEN HOUSE 2017. It was one of several fascinating places that I visited!

The Abbey on Fifth Avenue is utilized by Hornblower Cruises in San Diego for private parties, weddings and corporate events. In 1910, however, when its doors were first opened to welcome the people of San Diego, the building was a place of worship: the Park Place Methodist Episcopal Church. A gleaming gold leaf statue of the angel Gabriel stands atop the roof, blowing his horn, summoning eyes around Bankers Hill. Approach the building and one sees its dozen stained glass windows illustrating figures from the Bible.

Stained glass when viewed from outside a building can often appear a bit dull and unremarkable. When seen from inside, however . . . words can barely express the feeling. It’s like finding the end of a rainbow. It’s like stepping into a light-filled heaven.

Please enjoy some photos of The Abbey’s exterior and interior.

Today the Abbey on Fifth Avenue is operated by Hornblower Cruises and Events. Built as a church in 1910, the building has undergone various changes over the years. In 1984 it became a restaurant.
Today the Abbey on Fifth Avenue is operated by Hornblower Cruises and Events. Built as a church in 1910, the building has undergone various changes over the years. In 1984 it became a restaurant.
Photo of The Abbey taken from the intersection of Olive Street and Fifth Avenue in the Bankers Hill neighborhood, near downtown San Diego. A new building is under construction on its north side.
Photo of The Abbey taken from the intersection of Olive Street and Fifth Avenue in the Bankers Hill neighborhood. A new building is under construction on the north side.
Stained glass windows seen from the outside.
Stained glass windows seen from the street outside.
The 1910 Park Place Methodist Episcopal Church was built in the Classical Revival style, which is quite unusual in San Diego.
The 1910 Park Place Methodist Episcopal Church was built in the Classical Revival style, which is quite unusual in San Diego.
Gabriel blows his horn. Light reflecting from the gold leaf shines brightly like the sun.
Gabriel blows his horn. Light reflecting from the gold leaf shines brightly like the sun.
This gorgeous stained glass skylight and purple floor lights tinting the walls make a memorable dining experience at these tables on the second floor of The Abbey.
This gorgeous stained glass skylight and purple floor lights tinting the walls make a memorable dining experience at these tables on the second floor of The Abbey.
Another dome of stained glass in the ceiling.
Another dome of stained glass in the ceiling.
These doors on the second floor have beautiful floral stained glass panels.
These doors on the second floor have beautiful floral stained glass panels.
The interior of The Abbey on Fifth Avenue is a wonderland of colorful light.
The interior of The Abbey on Fifth Avenue is a wonderland of colorful light.
People pause by one of the south-facing stained glass windows.
People pause by one of the south-facing stained glass windows.
These tables along the second floor overlook a large space where people might dance or mingle during a special event.
These tables along the second floor overlook a large space where people might dance or mingle during a special event.
Stained glass shows classical columns and a cross in a crown.
Stained glass shows classical columns and a cross in a crown.
If I recall, this stained glass panel was in a door on the second floor. Those appear to be grapes.
If I recall, this stained glass panel was in a door on the second floor. Those appear to be grapes.
More stained glass behind dining tables on the north side of the second floor.
More stained glass behind dining tables on the north side of the second floor.
The many stained glass windows seem to fill the historic building with magic.
The many stained glass windows seem to fill the historic building with magic.
Close look at one window.
Close look at one window.
Christ portrayed in one radiant window.
Christ portrayed in one radiant window.
Religious figures near wine glasses hanging in a bar on the second floor. An interesting juxtaposition.
Religious figures near wine glasses hanging in a bar on the second floor. An interesting juxtaposition.
The beautiful stained glass is both mysterious and penetrating.
The beautiful stained glass is both mysterious and penetrating.
Another vibrant stained glass window portrays a risen Christ in heaven.
Another vibrant stained glass window portrays a risen Christ in heaven.
A scene from the Bible. One of many stained glass windows that fill The Abbey on Fifth Avenue with color and life.
A scene from the Bible. One of many stained glass windows that fill The Abbey on Fifth Avenue with color and life.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of fun photos for you to share and enjoy!