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28 Years Old: Permit Issued to Tear Down Fire-Damaged Landmark Catholic Church

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, October 19, 2011, at 02:16PM
St. Joseph's Catholic Church California Historical Society / USC Digital Archives

Aerial view of St. Joseph's Catholic Church (right) at 12th and Los Angeles from 1935.



On October 18, 1983, the fate the 82-year-old St. Joseph's Catholic Church at 12th and Los Angeles was sealed when the city issued a demolition permit for structure, designated as Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #15.

Just over one month earlier, a fire had ravaged the building just before Sunday masses were set to begin. Preservationists argued unsuccessfully that the structure should be rebuilt, trying to get the archdiocese to keep the still-standing shell and restore its Victorian Gothic architecture.

The cornerstone for St. Joseph's had been laid on June 17, 1901. At the time, Los Angeles was a town of 110,000. The finished structure was dedicated with a "blessing of the bell" on March 2, 1902.

It wasn't the church's first building on the site, however. A wooden building erected in 1889 had housed the congregation until it outgrew the structure and began the campaign to build.

St. Joseph's stills stands on the corner of 12th and Los Angeles—more than 120 years after the congregation first occupied the site—but the church that was built to replace the burned-down monument bears little resemblance to the landmark it replaced.

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