ASCENSION HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Oakland, California

History

Moving the Original Church Building

Excerpt from
Preservation of our Community Histories: Past, Present, and Future

Text

Let me concentrate for a moment on the original Brush Street Church building, as its story offers a lesson. The last Divine Liturgy was celebrated in that church in 1960, when the Brush Street church property was sold in favor of new property in the Oakland hills where our current church is located. With the selling, a litany began as people kept saying, "We SHOULD do something!" For sixteen years, from 1960 to 1976, the refrain continued, "We SHOULD do something." Then, in 1976, Senator Nicholas Petris of Oakland informed me that the old church building was scheduled for immediate demolition by the California Department of Transportation. I responded by meeting with the Director of the Department of Transportation, who greeted me with these words: "What took you people so long?"

The Director of the California Department of Transportation handed me the deed to the church, which I quickly refused. I could have left the office owning my own church! The responsibility appeared too formidable for me at that time. The meeting was our first. What would I do with a building located in the site of a new freeway and slated for demolition, I asked myself at the time? Should I hold the deed on my own?

Time was of the essence. He told me that his office had earlier contacted one of our more prominent parishioners who had exclaimed, and I quote, "Who wants that old piece of junk?!" The huge and costly highway project, which would merge two new freeways, was nearly completed. The vacant, old church building sat directly in its path. The highway project could not be finished until the demolition or disposition of the church building was settled.

So, the Committee to Save the Brush Street Church was established and incorporated by just two people [the other one was Eugenia M. Ahlas]. We proved that the church building met the established criteria, and we had it registered as both a State and National Historical Landmark [1978]. We saved the church building from demolition. It was moved one city block away from its original site [1979 — photos]. Due to the state's conflict of interest guidelines however, our committee was not allowed to purchase the property, and it was sold to another denomination. The church building still stands as a place of Christian worship.

Imagine how much more we could have accomplished had we not spent those sixteen years saying WE SHOULD do something. Imagine how much we could have accomplished if we had DONE something during those years. At the very least, we could have acquired the building for ourselves, and today would have owned a vital piece of our history. We might even perhaps have used the building as a museum.


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Mousalimas, Mary K., "Moving the Original Church Building", in "Preservation of our Community Histories: Past, Present, and Future", Workshop Report, Preservation of Parish Histories, 36th Biennial Clergy Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, July 1-2, 2002, online publication July 2002, available at http://www.pahh.com/symposia/workshops2002/mous.html; excerpt available at http://www.pahh.com/ahc/assumption/move06.html.


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