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Touring Rudolph Schindler's Miraculously Restored Bethlehem Baptist Church in South LA

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Modernist master Rudolph Schindler only ever designed one church and South LA only has one Modernist building from the formally segregated mid-century era, and they're the same building: Bethlehem Baptist Church in Central-Alameda. But for nearly 40 years it was left more or less abandoned and allowed to deteriorate. Pastor Melvin Ashley of the Faith-Build International church told DnA that when he found the building, by accident, architects told him "it was gone." But now, somehow, FBI has brought Bethlehem Baptist back from the dead and it opened for weekly services last month.

Bethlehem Baptist was built for its congregation in 1944, "at the height of Schindler's career," says the LA Conservancy. (While FBI has done incredible work, they haven't restored the original color scheme: "a mulberry-gray exterior deepening to a rosy-violet and deep plum interior." More on the design here.) Bethlehem Baptist sold the building in 1975; the current owner left it to taggers and the elements for years—he's so mysterious (but possibly a plumber?) that he didn't even show up in 2009 when then-City Councilmember Jan Perry nominated the building for historic-cultural monument status.

The building was landmarked but still left without a savior and in disrepair until Ashley stumbled on it while looking for a place to house a non-profit to serve the surrounding community. Now FBI (formerly in Watts) is in the process of buying the building and meanwhile holding services every Sunday at 11 am. After the first service, administrator Capri Blount told DnA that the "lighting was amazing, the music, the acoustics, it was very much spiritual."


· Get Inside Schindler's Only Church, Newly Back From the Dead [Curbed LA]