Construction of Glide Memorial Evangelistic Center

Lizzie Glide initially sought the services of her friend, architect Julia Morgan, to design Glide Memorial Church, but, according to historian Sara Holmes Boutelle, “Morgan and Glide disagreed over the architect’s proposal…and the commission went to an architect willing to build it more cheaply.”57 The architect Glide chose was James W. Plachek, a Berkeley-based architect who was highly respected by the late 1920s for designs such as the Berkeley Public Library Central Branch (2090 Kittredge Street).

Plachek had recently completed another commission for Lizzie Glide, Epworth Hall, a Methodist dormitory for women at the University of California, Berkeley (1927). Plachek presented “tentative plans and elevations” to the Glide Board of Trustees at meetings on January 7, 1930 and April 8, 1930.58 The project would consist of two parts, joined to appear as one: a church and a hotel and apartment building for “working girls” and businesswomen. The hotel and apartment building would be used as overflow from the Mary Elizabeth Inn. 59

The Board of Trustees approved Plachek’s plans on April 8, 1930. At the same meeting, the Board authorized Plachek to request bids from contractors, asserting that the winning contractor would be the firm “making the lowest bid, and offering the shortest time for the completion of the work.”60 Plachek received eight bids from contractors. The winning bid was Monson Brothers, with a proposed cost of $304,860 and completion timeframe of 160 days.61

The Board of Trustees established a Building Committee to oversee the work of Plachek and Monson Brothers composed of the following members: Chairman W.J. Sims, Lizzie H. Glide, Ethel Jackson, and Reverend F.W. Hollins.62 Glide also served on committees for building hardware and furnishings.63

The San Francisco Chronicle announced the groundbreaking celebration for the Glide Foundation Evangelistic Center, held on April 6, 1930:

The first spadefuls of earth will be turned on the property…by Dr. Sims and Rev. W.F. Rollins, pastor of Fitzgerald Methodist Church. Others participating in the exercises will include Rev. W.P. Shaw, pastor of West Side Christian Church; Rev. W.G. Fletcher, Oakland; Mrs. Lizzie H. Glide, Berkeley, aged widow of H.L. Glide and organizer of the foundation, and James Plachek, Berkeley, architect of the center. The Fitzgerald Church choir will sing.64

Glide Memorial Church was completed and dedicated “free of debt” by Bishop Arthur J. Moore on Sunday, January 11, 1931. Dean Wilbur J. Greshem of Grace Cathedral “brought the greetings from the churches of the city in behalf of the Church Federation of San Francisco.”65 Board of Trustees President Rev. W.J. Sims inserted a box of church papers into the corner stone, which reads: Glide Memorial Evangelistic Center, A House of Prayer for All People, A.D. 1930.

The original church included an auditorium, smaller rooms, evangelistic hall in which meetings were held every night except Saturday, and church offices. The other building was a six-story apartment house with parlors and business offices at street level and 14 apartments and 48 rooms on the floors above.66

The church featured a revolving neon cross on top of its south tower, which was purportedly quite effective (and may have been one of the first of its kind in the country), according to McPheeters:

[The cross] speaks a message to the multitudes who throng the streets below. At night the cross may be seen over a wide area of the down-town section. Dr. William L. Stidger, who initiated the use of illuminated crosses on American churches, spoke in Glide Church in the spring of 1935. At that time he said that the cross on Glide Church was the only Neon revolving cross on any church in America, so far as he knew….

Many have been attracted to the services of the church by the illumination of the cross at night, who otherwise would not have entered. One night in one of our services, a man came forward to the altar of prayer…. He was in great distress of mind…. In his testimony he said: “Tonight I was approaching the end of the trail. I was on my way to the Bay where I expected to jump in and end it all. My despondency was driving me to suicide. As I walked the street in my journey which I thought was to my death, I was attracted by the revolving illuminated cross on this church. It spoke a message to my despondent heart. It seemed that I could not refrain from entering the church and attending this service. Thank God, I’ve been saved tonight and turned from a suicide’s grave.”67

A second neon cross was located in the church interior, behind the pulpit and choir, furnishing a “mellow glow” for Sunday evening services.68

Equally effective in drawing attention to Glide Memorial Church, the northern tower contained a set of J.C. Deagan Company chimes, which played hymns twice daily, at noon and 7:00pm.69 A concert on the chimes preceded and closed every Sunday service.70

McPheeters also offered an early description of the Hotel and Apartment Building:

The Apartment Hotel, which is operated by the Glide Foundation, is a six-story, A-grade structure, in addition to a banquet hall, kitchen and storage rooms on the ground floor. The building contains 50 single rooms, fifteen two-room apartments, three three-room apartments, a large apartment which is the pastor’s home, and a café. The proximity of the hotel to the business district makes it a convenient home for business people…. One of the unique features of the hotel is the community kitchens on the second, third, and fourth floors, with individual lockers, electric stoves, Frigidaire, and every modern convenience to help working people keep down the cost of living. The guests have access to a first class laundry and sewing room on the roof….

The central office and telephone switchboard for the entire building, including the hotel and church, is located in a corner of the beautiful lobby. This office is open each day from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. This arrangement works for the convenience of both institutions. The parlors in the building are used by both the guests of the hotel and the church, as is also the main lobby. There is an entrance from the hotel into the main auditorium of the church on the second floor.71

Early in its history, the Hotel and Apartment Building contained storefronts at the Ellis Street façade that were rented as commercial spaces. In September 1930, the ground-floor commercial space at the corner of Ellis and Taylor Streets was leased to Lamar & Whitmore, at a cost of $150 per month for four years. The space included basement storage.72 The real estate firm Baldwin & Howell was responsible for renting the other commercial spaces. In 1931 after the Board of Trustees realized that the Church couldn’t claim tax-exempt status with for-profit businesses on church property, all leases were canceled.73 The Methodist Book Store was moved to the rear of the ground floor of the Hotel and Apartment Building. Plachek was hired to redesign the ground floor of Glide Memorial Church.

The commercial space on the ground floor of the Hotel and Apartment Building (330 Ellis Street) was a café and/or coffee shop from at least 1934 (Lee’s Café) through 1955.74 It was described by McPheeters in the 1940s:

A first class café is located at the main entrance to the hotel, serving meals at very reasonable prices. The café furnishes an added convenience for those who do not desire to prepare their meals in their apartments or the community kitchens. The café is not operated by the Glide Foundation, but by a lessee.75

Similar to the Mary Elizabeth Inn, the Glide Hotel and Apartments seemed to be treasured by the women who lived there, including a public school teacher who said: “I have always thought it so wonderful that Mrs. Glide made a place for the older business women as well as the younger women.” Another resident remarked, “I am always happy to recommend the Glide to any young lady looking for a wholesome, comfortable and economical home in San Francisco.” 76

Single rooms in the apartment house were originally fixed at $20 per month.77