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The First Congregational Church of Los Angeles from “My So-Called Life”

Dec 23rd, 2010 | By | Category: My So-Called Life Filming Locations

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Fellow stalker/My So-Called Life aficionado Andrew recently went on a mission to try to track down the church that was used in the Season 1 Christmas-themed episode of fave show My So-Called Life titled “So-Called Angels”.  He had just picked up the most-recently released boxed set of the series, which came out in 2007, and was floored to discover that actor Wilson Cruz, who played Ricky Vasquez on the show, had recorded a commentary for the “So-Called Angels” episode and had described the location of the church as being on 6th Street close to Downtown Los Angeles.  Even with that detailed information, though, this locale proved to be a tough one to track down.  Thankfully, Andrew hit a stroke of luck, though, when he noticed that the doors of the church in the episode featured very intricate carvings.  He figured those doors had to be unique and, sure enough, they were!  Just type the words “carved doors”, “church”, and “Los Angeles” into Google and the very first entry that appears is for the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, located on the corner of South Commonwealth Avenue and West 6th Street, about a mile from Downtown Los Angeles, right where Wilson Cruz had said it would be.  Yay!  So, once Andrew told me the good news, I immediately dragged my dad right on out to stalk the place – just in time for Christmas, too!

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The Gothic revival-style First Congregational Church of Los Angeles was constructed in 1932 by brothers James Edward Allison and David Clark Allison, the same architecture team that designed the Beverly Hills Post Office and UCLA’s Royce Hall.  Both the exterior . . .

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. . . and the interior of the property are absolutely gorgeous in person.  In fact, I think it is safe to say that I have never seen a more beautiful place of worship in my entire life!  The church is literally breathtaking – especially decked out in all of its Christmas glory! 

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The First Congregational Church of Los Angeles’ main sanctuary, which stretches 198 feet in length and reaches 76 feet in height, is home to the world’s largest pipe organ, features carved oak pews, and is dotted with countless stained glass windows which were designed by Judson Studios in Pasadena.

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The bronze doors that Andrew noticed in the “So-Called Angels” episode were designed in 1946 by artist Albert Gilles and, unbelievably, they measure three inches thick and weigh in at a whopping one thousand pounds apiece!  The doors were so heavy, in fact, that I could hardly open them when we went to leave!

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In the “So-Called Angels” episode of My So-Called Life, the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles was the spot where Angela Chase (aka Claire Danes), along with the rest of the Chase family, and her friends Brian Krakow (aka Devon Gummersall) and Ricky wind up on Christmas Eve night after a heartbreaking course of events during which Ricky gets beaten up by his father and ends up first living on the streets and then in an abandoned warehouse.  I had actually forgotten how very heartbreaking the episode was until I re-watched it last week.  So incredibly sad!

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The area where Patty Chase (aka Bess Armstrong) found Ricky lighting candles is located just to the left of the church’s main altar, although that area looks a bit different today.  There are no candles located in that particular alcove (which I was seriously bummed about as I had planned on lighting one), nor is there a visible stained glass window.  The red carpet has also since been removed.

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The pew where Patty and Ricky sat in the scene is located just to the left of the alcove. 

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The exterior of the church looks a bit different today than it did during the filming, as well.  The large potted plants which flanked the front of the church in the episode are no longer there, but I have a hunch that those trees were actually props brought in specifically for the filming and were never actually there in real life.

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The street lamp that was pictured at the very end of the episode is actually there in real life, though, which I thought was just about the coolest thing ever!  Smile

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My So-Called Life is not the only production to have filmed at First Congregational.  The church also stood in for New York’s St. Thomas Episcopal where Wilhelmina Slater (aka Vanessa Williams) almost married Bradford Meade (aka Alan Dale’s) in the Season 2 episode of Ugly Betty titled “A Nice Day for a Posh Wedding”.

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First Congregational was also where the funeral for Preston Blake (aka Harve Presnell) was held in the 2002 Adam Sandler comedy Mr. Deeds.

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It was also used as the church where Mary Jane Watson (aka Kristen Dunst) almost married John Jameson (aka Daniel Gillies) in Spiderman 2.

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And it stood in for New York’s Trinity Church where the climactic final scene of 2004’s National Treasure took place.

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Both the opening and one of the closing scenes from 2003’s Daredevil were also filmed at the church.

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The First Congregational Church of Los Angeles has also appeared in episodes of Californication, The Riches, The West Wing, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Shark, The Closer, Bones, The Practice, Cold Case, Joan of Arcadia, Six Feet Under, Jag, and The X-Files and in the movies Nancy Drew and Into the Wild.  The church even has a page on its website which chronicles the many productions that have been filmed on the premises over the years (although My So-Called Life is ostensibly missing from the list).  So love it!

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Big THANK YOU to fellow stalker Andrew for finding this location!  Smile

Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: The First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, from the “So-Called Angels” episode of My So-Called Life, is located at 540 South Commonwealth Avenue in Los Angeles.  You can visit the church’s official website here and you can check out its extensive filming resume here.

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9 comments

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  1. Becky says:

    MSCL was the best show – I “stalked” MSCL locations during both of my last visits to LA using your website! (I about died when I visited Angela’s house in Pasadena – so cool! Next to Carrie’s stoop, it was the best visit ever!). I had always wondered about this church though. If I can get my mom and niece convinced to do a little “stalking” next month, I’ll definitely add this to my list! The Christmas episode is one of the best written pieces of television I have watched. So good! Thanks for the post!

    • Lindsay says:

      So glad my website helped you do some MSCL stalking. :) Hope you get to the church next month. It is only open on Thursdays and Sundays and only until about 1:30 or 2 p.m. each day, so make sure to plan accordingly. It is easily the most beautiful church I have ever seen, so your mom and niece should love it. :)

      • Becky says:

        Darn! I will be at Disneyland on Thursday, and we’re leaving Saturday. Sigh. Luckily, I go to LA a lot, so I’ll just have to add this for another trip :) There are plenty of other places to stalk in the meantime!

  2. Melissa says:

    I love this show! Soo mad it was only one season.

  3. Amanda Woodward says:

    You can see the church in the episode “Samantha” of “Dynasty”, “San Vincente” of “Melrose Place” (2009), “Requiem” of “The west wing” and “Peace out” of “Angel”.

  4. Andrew says:

    You are the best Lindsay! What a great Christmas present and I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed your visit there. Thank you also for getting a pic where Ricky was lighting the candle and pictures of the light post.
    Thanks so much again and Merry Christmas!

  5. Ashley says:

    Ooooh thank you for this Christmas treat! MSCL means so much to me, so this was great to see. Funnily that church always came across as very tiny to me, which I see is definitely not the case!

  6. Lavonna says:

    Great find! We have the boxed set of My So Called Life…I haven’t watched but Melissa said it was great.


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