The Rose Window restoration at First Congregational Church drew to a close at the end of 2020. Although there are two other windows and facades that need some attention, our congregation has taken a breather. As we come out of the depths of the pandemic, it has been nice to take a rest and just enjoy the beauty. What wonderful colors glow as the sunshine streams through the glass!

This week, Long Beach Heritage gave its Preservation Award to our project. Amazingly, this is the sixth award we have received. Others include

The 2021 Preservation Design Award from the California Preservation Foundation

The 2021 Preservation Award from the Victorian Society in America

The Nigel Williams Prize in Ceramic Conservation from the UK Institute for Conservation

The 2021 Excellence in Structural Engineering Award: Historic Preservation Award of Structural Engineers Association of California

The Vitruvian Award for “Outstanding Façade Preservation” from Façade Tectonics

The congregation of First Congregational Church is very proud of all these accolades. Through out this process we strove to follow the best practices for historic facilities possible. The number of awards received reflects we accomplished our goal.

We are very appreciative of all those who have contributed their time and their resources. But please don’t forget that this building will always need care in order to continue its mission and present beauty. Donations for future preservation efforts can be made at any time on the donation page of this website, or at firstchurchlb.org.


Since the placement of the steel window armature, the work continues. At this time, we can see the end in sight!

What has been done:

  • Stainless steel anchors with epoxy resin were placed around the entire stainless steel window frame to secure it to the wall.
  • Brick replacement and repointing continued.
  • Custom made terra cotta from Darwen Terracotta and Faience was secured to the outside of the armature. Special attention was paid to the waterproofing sealant applied between the terra cotta, stained-glass and leaded solder.
  • The wood tracery of the inside of the window was reassembled and put back into place.
  • The leaded glass lites of the Rose Window were installed, making sure corrections were made to areas that previously did not have sufficient anchoring of the stained glass to the tracery.
  • Examination of the 3 tilt-and-turn lites in the Rose Window showed their latches were too stiff. There was concern that the excessive pressure needed to close them could cause damage. In the end, the lites were converted to be stationary.
  • Conservators from RLA Los Angeles worked on the repairs and inpainting of the window’s interior wood tracery.
  • Exploratory openings of the tower at the street level revealed that rainwater damage had led to corrosion of the metal supports and cracks of the structural columns and lintels. Examination of the lintels over the blind basement windows of the east facade also showed corrosion. These were either treated with waterproofing or replaced as needed. New bricks were placed where necessary and repointed.

What is next:

  • A granite replacement for the curb of the entrance will be made and placed.
  • Repairs to columns, their capitals and some areas of the brick work continue.
  • The fireproof and water-resistant insulation used on the interior scaffolding will be installed on top of the Sanctuary ceiling in the attic to improve heat insulation.
  • Repairs and replacements of some damaged street level terra cotta on the North facade will be done.

As we are approaching the conclusion of this project, we are grateful to all of our financial contributors. If you would like to donate, please visit the donation page of this website, or 3rdandcedar.com/donate.



Despite the onset of COVID 19, the project has continued to progress.

What has been done:

  • BRICK WORK:  Brick repair was done to the most damaged areas of the east façade.  Some bricks were removed and replaced.  Amazingly, the new bricks were made by a local manufacture who uses clay from the same quarry as the original brick manufacture. Mortar was selected to match the current mortar in place.
  • TOWER WINDOW REPAIRS:  The contractors discovered that most of the window frames required major repair.  Mike Oades of J Michael Design contracted to repair or replace the stained glass in some of the tower windows, only to discover that extensive asbestos in the glazing putty and sealants necessitated hazardous materials abatement. Windows in the east face of the tower were repaired and restored.
  •  TERRA COTTA CREATION:  The terra cotta was created by Darwen Terracotta and Faience of Blackburn, England. This was done to specific measurements and color specifications requested by our team. The manufacturing was accomplished in one firing to assure better consistency .  The terra cotta was shipped and arrived in February, just on the eve of work shutdown due to COVID-19.
  • ARMATURE FOR HOLDING TERRA COTTA:  The House of Stainless in Gardena built the large stainless-steel structure to hold the window and support the surround of terra cotta.Its expansion capabilities were designed to be compatible with the masonry.  It was also painted for extra protection from corrosion.  The steel window frame arrived and was placed in a fenced-off portion of the Potholder Restaurant parking lot.  Its final assembly and the attachment of anchor clips for the terra cotta occurred on site.  Before the installation, our contractor performed a dry fitting of the terra cotta. Darwen’s terra cotta was found to be perfectly accurate and an excellent fit to the ring.
  • INSTALLATION OF THE ARMATURE:  Permits were obtained from Long Beach City to temporarily close Cedar Avenue, and a crane was hired to install the metal ring of the Rose window. Preparations for the event included waterproofing the Rose window exterior, adding supports to the armature to prevent it from bending during the lift, and rearranging the scaffolding to accommodate the activity. On June 29, the crane hoisted the stainless-steel armature into place on the window wall.  After adjusting it and temporarily securing it into place, holes in the masonry were drilled for the anchors and inspected.  Eighteen-inch stainless steel anchors with epoxy resin were placed around the entire window to secure it to the wall.

What is next:

  • Terra cotta will be installed around the Rose window on the east façade. A minor amount of terra cotta repair/replacement will be done on the north façade.
  • The stained-glass of the Rose window will be installed. A ticketed online live event is planned for the placement of some of the final pieces of glass. Further details will be coming soon.
  • The scaffolding will be removed and the project complete.  The goal is for September 31.

Keeping First Church beautiful so it can serve Long Beach for least another 100 years has been the driving impetus behind the preservation of this special building.  At the outset, none of the church membership had any idea of just how to tackle the challenge to conserve this important piece of Long Beach history. But the congregation felt the responsibility and persevered. Once underway, the project has been at the same time educational, overwhelming, intense, and downright exciting. The first phase, preserving the East façade, is almost done. We are counting down to the days to the final step:  re-installation of the magnificent and unique restored rose window. This will be a thrilling moment for anyone who loves our beautiful city and values preserving its history. If being a part of the preservation of this Long Beach icon has value to you and if you would like to participate in its ongoing preservation, please visit the donation page on this website for more information about how to help.


uncovered window

Since the last post the project has been in full swing.  Here is a summary:

What has been done:

  • The tower windows have been examined. Some have been found to be in need of immediate attention due to decaying wooden frames and cracks on the terra cotta sills. A cost estimate has been prepared for the repair and this may be added to the current scope of work.
  • The east façade rose window has been dismantled. This was an amazing feat considering there were no drawings from the original construction to provide guidance. Reinforcements were placed to maintain the window’s structural integrity, and then the terra cotta surrounding the window was gently removed.  A conscious effort was made to save as many blocks as possible.
  • The underlying metal support system was determined to be a small central ring that lead to spokes, which in turn were connected to a larger ring. This large ring was surrounded by 16 smaller rings.  How this was all assembled and held together necessitated a design change in the planned replacement structure.
  • All of the supporting metal showed some corrosion, but not excessive amounts. According to our consultant John Fidler (of John Fidler Preservation Technology), the cracks could also be from rainwater laden with salts, corrosion of unprotected metal, previous seismic movements, or simply aging of the terra cotta itself.
  • It was discovered that the terra cotta is not just one design replicated, but rather a large number of unique pieces that attach to the metal support or the adjacent terra cotta in an individual manner. This has made for challenges in making sure that all the right pieces are reproduced.
  • Exact measurements of the brick opening for the window were taken. Surprisingly enough, it was found to be an oval and not a true circle. This has also created design challenges for the replacement structures.
  • Preparations have been made for future installation of the new terra cotta. These include some paint removal, cleansing of the brick and the creation of a custom color matched patch system.
  • Salvaged as well as broken terra cotta bricks were labelled as to their original locations, and then stored. Some pieces were carefully packaged and sent to the terra cotta manufacture Darwen for copying.  Others have been retained for reuse, or as a reference.
  • A color match for the new terra cotta has been finalized and is being used by Darwen.
  • A brickyard has been chosen for any necessary replacement bricks. Although the original brick manufacture is no longer in business, another brickyard using clay from the same clay bed has been found.
  • New fireproof thermal acoustic insulation has been placed inside the interior scaffolding sheath. This provides greater temperature and noise abatement.  In the future it could be moved to an attic space in the church to provide extra insulation.
  • The rose window has been shrink wrapped for increased weather proofing while awaiting the new terra cotta.
  • Our church’s Historic Building Preservation Committee has secured a $100,000 matching grant from Partners for Sacred Places’ National Fund. Even with this, efforts continue to find other grants and community support to assist with this project.


What is next:

  • Methods to repair the damaged street level sills and pillars on the north and façades are being developed.
  • A custom match for the replacing joint sealant is being developed.
  • Brick repair will begin on the east façade.
  • A public lecture will be presented by John Fidler at the church on November 10. This will include a detailed description of the project in its entirety, and a brief tour of the building.


All in all, the removal of the rose window has been a little like opening Pandora’s box.  Happily, we have highly skilled consultants and crew to assist us.

We all anxiously await the arrival of our new terra cotta and the ability to progress to the next phase of the project


Since the last post of March, work has finally begun on the project!  Here is what has been going on.

June Blog Picture

What has been done:

  • A contract has been signed with Giampolini and Co. Construction (based out of Emeryville CA) to work under the guidance of John Fiddler Preservation Technology Inc. for the duration of this project.
  • The UK based company Darwen Terracotta has been selected to manufacture the terra cotta that needs to be replaced. This decision was made, in part, due to their ability to more accurately match the color and qualities of our current terra cotta.
  • Scaffolding has been constructed on the interior and exterior of the east façade. The interior has been covered to improve the aesthetics and sound proofing.  Care has been taken to cover the wooden pews, walls, floors and stairwell to prevent damage from the construction process.
  • Scaffolding has allowed the close-up inspection of the building elements and surfaces. Details found include salt damage to the bricks, decay of the wood window casings and sills, some unanchored bricks, and possible asbestos in the sealant used for the Rose Window.
  • Examination of an exploratory opening at the top of the Rose Window allowed an understanding of how the brick wall, terra cotta and wood fascia were made. Happily, concentric brick arch rings were found that provide structural stability for the entire wall.  It was also possible to see how the terra cotta was secured into the wall. More terra cotta might be able to be salvaged than previously thought.

What is happening now:

  • The damaged terra cotta is being removed and a representative from Darwen Terracotta is taking details of the shapes, profiles, and colors to be matched. Interestingly enough, the terra cotta we have was found to be hollow.
  • Temporary anchors are being constructed to hold the brick rings in place while work is done on the tracery.
  • Metric surveyors are being priced to help with the determination of the window’s actual shape, taking into account any deformation that has occurred over the years.
  • The church’s Development Committee continues to submit grant requests to aid in the project’s funding.

What potential challenges exist:

  • As the cracked terracotta windowsills are being replaced, examination of the wood window casings of the tower windows must be considered.  Their integrity has not yet been determined.


So as with most house projects, there is always the potential for the unexpected.  But the best news is the extreme care and attention to detail that John Fiddler and Giampolini and Co. have provided to our wonderful building.  It truly has been stellar.

Thank you for your patience through this process!

This is the year!

Since the last post, the Historic Preservation Team has been working with our consultant John Fidler (of John Fidler Preservation Technology Inc) to move the project forward. Work is to begin in March of 2019.  The Preservation Team gratefully acknowledges the support and patience of the First Church Community in this process.  Here is what has been going on.DSCN7448

What has been done:

  • The scope of the project was modified to focus on the east façade, including significant terra cotta replacement and the repair/reinstallation of the Rose Window.
  • With the help of John Fidler’s organization, a detailed project manual was created to serve as the key document in procuring bids from contractors.
  • A three-month bidding process was conducted to find bids that would align with the 1.8 million cost approved by the congregation and Church Council.
  • A contract was formalized with chosen contractor Giampolini & Co, Inc of Emeryville CA to complete all the work outlined in the project manual. The anticipated length of the project is 12-14 months.
  • Permits were sought for and obtained from the Planning Department of the City of Long Beach.

What is happening now:

  • Scaffolding will be placed on the interior and exterior of the east wall in March. The interior portion will be covered with a decorative box to improve the aesthetics and provide some sound proofing.
  • A detailed construction schedule is being formulated. Regularly scheduled meetings between John Fidler, Giampolini &Co construction, and church representatives will occur to coordinate the project’s progress.
  • Samples of our cracked terracotta have been sent to several terra cotta manufactures (including one in Great Britain) to find matches of the color and texture. Final pricing and delivery information are also being requested.
  • Once a signed contract is in hand, arrangements will move forward with the UCC Cornerstone Fund, the organization helping us finance this project.
  • Our church’s Development Committee is working on finding and submitting grants to aid in the project’s funding.

What potential challenges exist:

  • Until the terra cotta is removed, we won’t know if our plans on how replace the currently rusted metal anchors and armatures are correct.
  • Once construction has started, hazardous materials from the original construction might be discovered. If so, their removal would be dealt with in an appropriately safe manner.

How will construction impact the church?

  • A few spaces will be lost in the Chestnut parking lot. Already a container has been placed there and a portable office for the project might fill three other spaces.
  • The temporary glass in the east rose window will be removed and the opening will be sealed for weather protection. The light will be blocked until the replacement terracotta is ready to be installed.
  • The parking spaces immediately in front of the church will be lost due scaffolding. We will maintain space for drop off at the entrance of the courtyard and a few metered spaces on Cedar south of the scaffolding. The spaces in the Potholder lot will still be available (5 slots during the day and the whole lot after 3 pm), as well as the city and 3rd street lots.  The Chestnut lots will be open as well.
  • Scaffolding will be erected on the exterior of the east side and the interior east sanctuary balcony. The sidewalk will be protected by a covered walkway. The exterior scaffolding will be wrapped and secured with locked access for the contractor’s crews.
  • Worker’s access to the church will be limited. They will have entrance through the coffin doors and be able to use the restroom via the walkway behind the choir loft. Their access to the east balcony will be limited.

Construction will take place on weekdays, but not on weekends or holidays.  Working hours will typically end by 4 pm.

Through all of this, we will strive to impact the church as little as possible.  We will also try to keep everyone informed as best as we can.

Thank you for your patience!

What happened last year?

Wow, long time no post! Our team has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to prepare for the east façade renovation and this fall construction will begin! The Preservation Committee is so grateful for the support of the First Church community throughout this process. Here is the much-anticipated project update.

Last year:

  • Engineering simulations were run to calculate the strength required of the steel support frame to withstand the gravity, wind, and seismic loads.
  • Detailed construction drawings were produced detailing the current condition and the proposed changes we have made to the building.
  • The Navy Memorial Heritage Foundation generously granted the church a second award of $50,000 toward the replacement of the terra cotta around the east rose window.
  • The Preservation Committee secured a line of credit to cover future expenses, should they exceed our current funds or rate of fundraising.

Dead load analysis completed by Critical Structures Inc.

What is the Committee working on now?

  • A detailed project description is being sent out to potential contractors.
  • The city of Long Beach is reviewing the proposed project plans.
  • Candidates will be interviewed and given a tour of the church to inform their pricing.
  • Construction logistics are being planned around church scheduling.

What are the next steps?

  • A grant writer will be hired to help the project apply for funds on an ongoing basis, if you have any recommendations, please let anyone of the Preservation Team know.
  • Bids will be reviewed at the end of August.
  • The contracts will be awarded by early September.
  • A final construction schedule will be negotiated by the team.
  • Scaffolding will be erected on the east side in the early fall.
  • Project is expected to be completed early 2019.

How will construction impact the church?

  • The east rose window will be removed and the opening will be sealed for weather protection. The light will be blocked until the replacement terracotta is ready to be installed.
  • The parking spaces immediately in front of the church will be reserved for construction use, similar to across the street. The spaces in the Potholder lot will still be available, as well as the city and 3rd street lots.
  • Scaffolding will be erected on the exterior of the east side and the interior east sanctuary balcony. The sidewalk will be protected by a covered walkway. Street access through the coffin door, the east sanctuary balcony and the hallway behind the organ will be blocked off for construction access.

Thank you for your patience as we carefully plan the east side renovation. We are very excited to get this project underway and see positive changes to the exterior appearance of the church!

The Guts of the Building

Those of you who attended last Sunday’s service may have felt like you were in a hell fire or a hot-yoga version of church but that is the building’s natural state, no air conditioning. It was a shorter service with typically low attendance, many at or avoiding the Gay Pride Parade, so it seemed like a good time to experiment. Wrong. Church members were sweating, an overheated woman left in the middle of service, and the organ pipes went out of tune. We learn from our mistakes. In this post I want to take a closer look at our air conditioning and show you the guts that make this building an icebox or an oven.

The interior of the boiler room. Contains the controls, pumps, and the intake/outtake pipes for the ice bank.

The current hybrid system was put in place with the retrofit in 1988. Underneath the courtyard is an ice-maker that is now run only on the hottest of days but was originally used every night. In the morning when the cold air was needed, water would be pumped over the ice to cool it. The cooled water would then be pumped around the building where fans could blow over the cool pipes and create cold air. Now we use chemically refrigerated water most of the time but the ice system still functions.

Hot and cold water pumps.

In 2002 when the new building was added the volume of cool air needed was effectively doubled but no new capacity was added to the old system. The logic was that both buildings were rarely used simultaneously so one system could serve both. Unfortunately lived experience tells us that is not the case.

Attic duct work over second floor offices.

The Port of Long Beach is offering grants to local organizations that serve children to address their air conditioning problems with the intention that high quality filters will be installed to pull out the harmful particulates emitted by the port. Yvonne, Sam, and I are currently exploring options to take advantage of this wonderful program to improve our system. We will keep you posted on our progress!

Rooftop cooling tower.

The Root of the Problem

Last week we removed a small section of the outermost brickwork on the lower east side. This excavation revealed poor original workmanship that has been damaging our terracotta and brickwork from the inside.

The cracks in the terra cotta sill and column base point almost directly towards the unfortunate join in the underlying masonry.

The strength of a masonry building comes from interlocking bricks held tightly in place by an even, tightly packed mortar. In our case, the bricks are not interlocking but are abutting one another leaving a vertical void that has only gotten bigger as the building settled and the mortar softened. The result of the space is that the columns and piers are sinking into the hollow terracotta blocks causing cracking and deformation in all of the moving parts involved.

The bricks should be interlocking but instead multiple rows meet at the same place creating an unstable base for the details above.

In addition, there are several four ft. L-shaped beams that hold the veneer brick in place and are supposed to shore up the interior masonry. These beams are exposed and have expanded thanks to heavy rusting. This has caused cracking in the brick and further weakening to the interior masonry.

Corroded L-beam and back base plate.

The root causes of damage have been identified and now our team is working on addressing the structural issues at hand. Once the treatment is finalized, exact pricing will be figured out. As soon as we get the numbers the Preservation Committee will give a presentation giving a full update on the project. Let me know if you have questions!

First Church’s MLK: Marylou Klar


She came to California as bride. Mary Lou Klar moved across the country with her new husband just a few days after they married. Both grew up on the east coast but with the enticement of work and families ties to Bob’s aunt and uncle they migrated west. They landed in downtown Long Beach where Mary Lou found work as a secretary. They attended the Old Methodist Church on Easter but soon after they bought their house in North Long Beach they began attended Cal Heights Methodist Church.

Cal Heights Methodist

Cal Heights Methodist Church

Two sons later they moved to the former bean field that was a freshly built subdivision in west Garden Grove. A knock on the door drew the Klars to a new offshoot of the United Church of Christ. Their first meeting was in the breezeway of a drive through dairy farm. Mr. Granger preached and his wife tried her best with a pump organ. With the help of a land grant from the UCC conference, the church grew into an air-supported building. Later on locally famous modernist architect A. Quincy Jones would design a brick and mortar building. It is now a Baptist church.

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Formerly the Garden Grove UCC Community Church

As her four children got older, Mary Lou decided to go back to work. At that point she took a fourteen-year break from attending church. In 1980, the family moved back to Long Beach and joined the Bay Shore Congregational church. Like the Cal heights Methodist Church, the couples club was much older than the Klars so they stopped going. Throughout this period the Klar children continued to attend Pilgrim Pines each summer. It was at camp that Debbie Bond nee Klar met Mary Ellen Kilsby. Debbie came back from the mountains singing her praises,” Mom! You’ve got to go. She puts on a real sermon.” So they went and just kept on going.


Mary Ellen Kilsby, former pastor of FCCLB

One of the most striking moments in the church for Mary Lou was the funeral of her son, Steve, in 1989. Steve moved home after being diagnosed with AIDs. Instead of feeling victimized, he joined a support group called Men Alive and the Great American Yankee Freedom Band. Over 150 people attended his memorial service. The organ was being repaired so the piano was used to accompany Mary Lou’s niece who sang, “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from Phantom of the Opera.

GAY band

GAY Freedom Band marching in a 1980 parade

Mary Lou became involved with Families Who Care, a support group for families who have AIDs positive relatives. She took over as the coordinator after the original founder retired. Eventually a young gay friend, Buel Kent, said to her,” There’s more to life than AIDs” and that is when she became moderator. After her term as moderator she joined Membership Development and Women’s Fellowship groups but she has never “been asked or volunteered for” a board position. She enjoys being a greeter but cannot stand so she meets people other ways (as I am sure many of you know). Be sure and say hi to Mary Lou next time you see her in service!