The present church building is one of the most significant Spanish Revival structures existing in Southern California. It was designed by Myron Hunt, a leading California architect who also designed the Spanish Wing of the Mission Inn and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
The building is a brick structure with a concrete tower. Henry Jekel was the architectural engineer for the Spanish Baroque Churrigueresque tower. The cornerstone was laid December 1, 1912, and the building was dedicated on January 25, 1914. The original cost of the building was $100,000.
The Great Cross in the Sanctuary
The Cross is made of 23 enamel on copper panels depicting some of the ideas central to the beliefs of the church. It was given by Mr. and Mrs. Dominic Tavaglione in memory of her mother, Pearl Parker, and her brother, George A. Parker. The idea of the cross was conceived by Millard Sheets, world-renowned artist from Claremont, and it was designed by Margaret Montgomery, later Mrs. Jarvis Barlow, in the art department of Scripps College. It was dedicated Easter, April 19, 1950.
The Baptismal Font
The baptismal font is one of the unique furnishings of the church. It was carved from American Walnut by Richard Lippich of Lancaster, New York, a Swiss carver who had just arrived in the United States. The inscription on the font reads, “In memory of one from the east who worshiped in this church.” It was given by Mr. C.C. Childs as a memorial for his wife and installed Easter, May 1927.
The Carillon Bells
For many years the church’s 135′ bell tower was empty. in 1986, Don and Beth Miller began the Carillon Project in memory of their son, Scott. A Carillon was chosen, consisting of 24 bells, each of which rings a different pitch on the chromatic scale. The bells, which are the only pealing bells located in Southern California, were manufactured in France. In August 1989 installation began, and on October 1, 1989, the bells were dedicated as a memorial to loved ones and a gift of the church to the community.
The FCC Madonna
The stained glass window was an FCC Sunday School project in the 1890’s when children donated pennies for 15 years. It was modeled after the Sistine Madonna (or Madonna di San Sisto oil painting) which was used as an altarpeice at the church of San Sistoin Piacenza, Italy. Although the original included Saints Sixtus and Barbara and cherubs at Mary’s feet, this version is true to Raphael Sanzio’s original painted in 1513-14. The facial expressions reflect the painting’s original placement near a crucifix. This is an excellent example of High Renaissance art and was the only stained glass in this building until 1947 when five memorial stained glass windows were installed in the sanctuary. It originally hung on the north wall but was removed during the remodel of the church in 1955. In 1996 it was removed from storage, restored and installed with love in this display box.
The Stained Glass Windows
Around the upper level of the sanctuary are eight stained glass windows. The first four of these windows were donated in the 1940’s by an anonymous couple staying at the Mission Inn, and the four others were donated later. The windows were designed by Horace Judson and made by the Judson Studios of Los Angeles. Five windows were dedicated April 4, 1947; three more were dedicated November 20, 1955. The eight windows represent: The Nativity; Christ in the Temple; The Baptism; Christ Blessing the Children; The Light of the World; Prayer; Communion; and the Woman of Samaria.
The Austin Pipe Organ
The organ was designed by Robert G. Derick, organist and choirmaster in the church from 1949 to 1965. It is a 38-rank, three manual pipe with 2,292 pipes, made by the Austin Organ Company of Hartford, Connecticut. The organ was dedicated March 22, 1959 and Mr. Derick played the first recital on the organ that evening. Organ virtuoso Virgil Fox gave a brilliant recital on the organ several weeks later with an audience that packed the church.
The Church Remodeling
A remodeling of the church was undertaken in 1955. This included changing the sanctuary from side aisles to a center aisle, new chancel, pulpit, lectern, new wood paneling, dossal, pews, carpeting, and renovation of the narthex. Church school rooms on the second floor were also remodeled and renovated. The remodeled building was dedicated in an 85th anniversary ceremony, April 14, 1957, with a congregation of 1000 attending.
The Current Status
The First Congregational Church building is designated City of Riverside Cultural Landmark No. 6, a Riverside County Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Because the building does not meet the earthquake standards set fourth in recent California Law, the Church has established a Historical Restoration Fund which will be used to retrofit the church building. Contributions to this fund will be gratefully accepted.