2621 Second Street is a building that has, like the city itself, undergone many changes yet still retained its essential character and interest. This Gothic Revival edifice—likely the oldest wooden structure in the city today—began life as the first church built after Santa Monica was founded in 1875.
Within months of the town’s founding a newly-formed Methodist Church society was already hard at work constructing this house of worship. Originally situated on two lots donated by town-founder Senator John P. Jones at Sixth and Arizona, the construction was a collaborative effort by church members. Some donated funds towards the $683.98 total cost of the building, others offered their carpentry or glazing skills or gave doors, lamps, and seating. When it was dedicated on January 2, 1876 one observer remarked that “the Methodist Church Society now have a nice little church edifice…It is true that the building is not a very stately edifice, but it meets the present demands very well.”
When the Methodists faced declining members due to an economic bust facing the city in the 1880s, the building was moved to a more centrally-located lot at Fourth and Arizona in hopes of attracting more congregants. At that time a bell tower was added. Later, after the Methodists had rebounded, they found the structure too confining and built a new church on the same lot. The old church was moved to the back of the lot and used for meetings.
In 1899 the Methodists decided to donate the church to the South Santa Monica Methodist Church. Consequently, the building was moved to the newly developing area now known as Ocean Park. By this time the area already boasted several hundred cottages and a small business district and the church took its place among them on what is now Second Street.
The building then underwent several more changes. In 1923 a brick and masonry building was adjoined to the church and the edifice was sold. Its new owners—the Stephen Jackson Women’s Relief Corps—renamed the structure “Patriotic Hall” and used it for meetings. In the early twentieth century, almost everyone in Santa Monica was from somewhere else and this auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic was one of many clubs that sprang up to create a social fabric where none had existed before. As home to this group, the old church building continued in its role as a place for like-minded residents to come together. In 1971 the building passed into private hands. It is now a private residence.
Viewed today, the building presents a pleasing simplicity accented by the appealing repetition of triangular forms over the windows and doors. Stained glass panels are visible from the street and its original function as a house of worship shines through.
It is particularly potent as a symbol of community-building in the days when Santa Monica was young.