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Sister Aimee Semple McPerhson preaching in 1938

Photograph courtesy of the Regional History Center
Angelus Temple
Los Angeles, California

The Angelus Temple, located on Glendale Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, was designated a National Historic Landmark on April 27, 1992. The Angelus Temple is historically significant as the base of operations for Aimee Semple McPherson, a pioneer in the field of radio evangelism. McPherson set a number of important precedents for women in religion in the early part of the 20th century; she was the first woman to receive a FCC radio license and she was a pioneer religious broadcaster. On radio station KSFG and in her preaching at the Angelus Temple, McPherson was an innovator in incorporating Hollywood and vaudeville style entertainment into her sermons. In addition, she mobilized an extensive social ministry from her headquarters at the Angelus Temple. McPherson provided a social and educational center for thousands of Midwestern immigrants, and during the Great Depression she provided hot meals for thousands of hungry people. She also widened the appeal of Pentecostalism to millions of people via her tours and radio broadcasts, and her founding of a Bible College to train missionaries, ministers, and evangelists.

Aimee Kennedy Semple McPherson was born in 1890 and raised in rural Ingersoll, Canada. After an early marriage to Robert Semple, she traveled to China with him as a Pentecostal missionary. In 1909, a year after her arrival in China, Robert Semple died and Aimee came to New York. Shortly thereafter she married Harold McPherson and moved to Providence, Rhode Island. The McPherson's soon began to conduct independent, itinerant evangelistic campaigns throughout the eastern seaboard of the country, but their marriage lasted only a brief time. In 1916 Aimee McPherson continued the ministry that had begun with only a tent and an old car. For a time she did not have any permanent residence, but finally in 1918 McPherson and her two children settled in Los Angeles, California. From 1918 to 1923 she continued to tour the country, raising money for the Angelus Temple project in California. By 1923 her revival ministry had built and paid for the Angelus Temple.

[Photo] The Sactuary of Angelus Temple
Image from National Register collection.

McPherson's traveling crusades came to rival those held by Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. On one 150-day tour it is estimated that she traveled 15,000 miles and delivered 336 sermons to audiences totaling more than two million people. She also reached millions of people over 45 radio stations. Though often she preached against the Jazz Age, she pioneered the use of vaudeville and Hollywood theatrics to attract and hold the attention of her audience. These attention getters, however, were intended to illustrate the sermon. When McPherson dressed as a policewoman and rode a motorcycle onto the stage she preached on the subject "Stop! You are breaking God's law!" However, her career progressed beyond theatrics in her teachings. She summarized her doctrines into four major points conveniently known as the "Foursquare Gospel" and, though they did not differ very much from a traditional pietistic Christian faith, she published them in a book of the same name. In 1926 she established a Bible College, Lighthouse of Foursquare Evangelism, to train ministers, missionaries, and evangelists. By 1944 there were more than 4,000 graduates. Although Aimee Semple McPherson was sometimes extravagant, her ministry was never racked by financial scandal, and she assisted the material and spiritual needs of many people, especially new immigrants to California.

[rotating photos]
Color postcard image and historic photograph of Angelus Temple in the 1930s

Postcard from National Register collection, historic image courtesy of the Regional History Center
The Angelus Temple, designed by Brook Hawkins, was completed in 1923. The fireproof building was designed of concrete and steel. The main architectural feature of the building is its large, unsupported concrete dome coated with a mixture of ground abalone shells. The dome, at the time of construction the largest in North America, rises 125 feet from the main floor. A large revolving neon cross is mounted on the exterior of the dome. Beneath the dome on the interior of the building is the main auditorium, a large room with two balconies that seat 5,300. Originally, its ceiling was decorated with a panorama of clouds painted by artist Anne Henneke. Eight stained glass windows made by artist George Haskins depict the entire life of Christ. Some renovations occurred in 1972, but the exterior and interior of the Angelus Temple recall the time of Aimee Semple McPherson. The second floor of the building contains offices and other rooms related to the function of the Temple. The building also houses the Hundred and Twenty Room and the Five Hundred Room where the ill receive religious instruction regarding religious healing, and an encasement containing evidence of past illnesses healed by faith.

Still an active congregation, you can find further information about Angelus Temple at their website.

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