Tower and Shield

First Congregational Church of Christ
A story of HIS faithfulness
since 1887…

In Progress…

Check back soon as we take on the massive endeavor of showcasing the rich and long history of our church and those who came before us. As the oldest church in Corona, CA, we have a great story to tell. We want to show you this journey through time as we go about the work of archiving all of the important and cherished photos we have. It will be a story worth reading, and one whose future you’ll surely want to help write with us.

Join Us Sundays at 10am

A Short History of First Congregational Church and Plymouth Guild

Source: Church Documents

On May 25, 1887 a group of seven men and women met to organize a church.  On June 1, 1887 they met again, and with the Rev. Horace Houlding as moderator, organized the First Church of Christ of South Riverside, as Corona was then known.  Reverend Houlding was chosen the first pastor.  All denominations were invited to worship with us.  The pioneer families laid aside their denominational differences and worked together in the cause of Christ.

The founders of South Riverside offered $900 to the first organization to build a church here.  Rev. Houlding was the winner, with the construction of First Congregational Church on a quarter block of land given by the Land and Water Company.  The original building was a small wooden one that served the growing community for religious purposes and town meetings.

In April 1909 the members decided to build a new church.  Work was begun on this building in November of 1910, and the church was dedicated on October 15, 1911.   Total cost, including furnishings, was $35,012.29.  The large circular stained glass window with the theme of Resurrection Morning was donated by sisters Stella and Anna Platt in memory of their sister Helen who was an early trustee of this church.

The Ladies Aid Society was formed in 1889 and was reorganized under the name of “Workers Union” in 1898.  It contributed substantially not only to the social life of the church, but financially as well.  Monthly afternoon Calendar Socials made attractive by ingenious methods of entertaining were especially successful as money raisers.  Paying the church organist and buying music for the choir was an obligation this group assumed for many years.  The Union also gave sizable amounts toward the church debt and also for property improvements.  All Union members entered heartily and harmoniously into the work of repairing and beautifying the church.  They put as much love and thought into it as they did into furnishing their own homes.  In 1917, the Workers Union combined its smaller groups into one larger association.  New China was purchased for the church kitchen at a considerable expense of $31.83.

During World War I the Union shared in the war effort, doing local charity work with an average attendance of forty women.  Each Wednesday they were in charge at the Red Cross Headquarters.

In 1921 the Workers’ Union reported they had gone “on strike” and demanded less work.  Their membership had dropped and it became harder for them to continue with the many money raisers as they had done for so many years.  The group began making pledges and formed committees to be responsible for the fund raisers each month.

During World War II the Women’s Guild sent Christmas gift packages to a ward of one of the many Army hospitals in Riverside County, and the women again served in the Red Cross every week.    In 1945, the Women’s Auxiliary and Missionary Society were consolidated under the name Plymouth Guild. The Guild reported in 1948 that one of their responsibilities was to send food to a family of six in Germany.  This was done for a continuing period of time.

In 1964 Plymouth Guild held a big Doll Show, sponsored by the Kate Greenway Doll Club of Orange County.  Seven hundred dolls were exhibited in Fellowship Hall in unusual and attractive settings.  This beautiful and historical affair was made possible by the efforts of Mrs. Florence Hutslar.  Many people came from all over to view the exhibit and to enjoy the Christian Fellowship offered by the Plymouth Guild.    

For many years Plymouth Guild held monthly luncheon meetings on the first Wednesday of the month in Fellowship Hall.  There was a Christmas Tea held on the first Wednesday of December each year to which ladies from other churches were invited to join in fellowship.  For the past several years the Guild has met quarterly on Saturday mornings or after Sunday worship. The Guild supports the congregation by sending plants to hospitalized members, and by organizing and serving funeral luncheons when requested.  Plymouth Guild spearheaded the project of remodeling the kitchenette on the south side of the parlor, and recently gave $1000 toward the new roof on the Parish House.  The Guild funds these services though an annual Bazaar held in the fall.

1911 Church Building History

Source: Church Documents

On June 1, 1910 the congregation voted unanimously to instruct its building committee to go ahead with the plans for a new church.  “Let us feel that we are building a grand and lasting monument here in Corona to the great good of the universe….” 

Norman Marsh of Los Angeles was selected as the architect and C.L. Lowery, a local contractor, together with E.P. Newton Construction Company was put in charge of the building.  Work began in November of 1910.  On January 25, 1911, the cornerstone was laid at afternoon ceremonies.  Reverend Chester Ferris gave a short history of the church, and ministers of the Baptist, Christian and Methodist Churches took part.  The ceremony was described in the Corona Courier:

“The stone is a magnificent piece of granite, from our own local quarries, and was a gift to the Congregational Society by the E.P. Newton Construction Company.  It is highly polished on three exposed surfaces taking a gray-black polish of very rich order.  It bears the inscription “First Congregational Church of Christ AD 1911.”

Numerous articles, including a picture of the church and the workmen as it was being built, a copy of the previous Sunday’s bulletin, a brief history of the church, and a list of current church officers, copies of the Riverside paper and the Corona Courier were placed in a steel box and sealed into the cornerstone, preserving a bit of history for the little church.

The building committee watched optimistically as the construction progressed.  In March trouble began with the building.  The contractor was not attending strictly to business, at least not that for which FCC was paying him.  On April 28 the contractor abandoned the work entirely.  Work finally resumed with a reliable foreman, D.F. Connell, who had been on the project since the beginning.  One of our own members, B.E. Savery, began supervising the project.  


Pipe Organ History at First Congregational Church of Corona

Source: Church Documents

The organ at First Congregational Church has been an important presence in the life of this congregation. The need for an excellent instrument in worship was a high priority early in the church’s history.

In September 1928, enough money had been raised, following the payment completion of the church’s mortgage a year prior, that a committee was formed to start the search, selection, purchase, and installation process for a pipe organ.  The committee selected a Robert Morton Organ at a cost of $4,225.00.  Although the Robert Morton Company primarily made theatre organs, this particular organ was one of the few organs they designed for a church. Despite the cost being more then the monies raised, the congregation decided to have the complete organ installed instead of buying a smaller organ and paying to have it upgraded at a later date.

On April 4, 1929, a Dedicatory Recital was held, Sibley G. Pease, an Organist Choir Master from Los Angeles, played for the event.  The public was invited to attend the concert; and it being the first organ of its kind in Corona; many people were present to hear the music. On the following Sunday, which was Easter, the new organ was played at the morning worship, with Robert Fink at the console.

In the 1950s the organ console was relocated to its present location and the organ arch and curtain were replaced with a new grille. In 1990 the organ was refurbished by Ron Kraft at a cost of $14,000 and a rededication concert was held on April 22nd. In 1995 the organ was damaged by a freak rainstorm on Easter Sunday, and many repairs were made by Ron Kraft.

Since then, the organ has suffered minor damages and repairs were made to the best of the church’s financial ability. After some severe rain storms during the winter of 2007, the organ had suffered some significant damage. This damage, coupled with cumulative maintenance issues that had gone unresolved, resulted in approximately 40% of the organ being unusable.

In January 2010, the congregation, led by Dan Burkhart and Wayne Keith, with the financial support of Louis and Ada VanderMolen, voted to have the organ fully restored at a cost of $43,883.50. Added to this restoration cost was $7,400.00 to repair the roof over the organ chamber to prevent any further water damage.  The total cost was $51,283.50. The congregation raised $32,501.95 and withdrew the rest from the church’s investment funds.

This latest restoration, done by R.M. Ballantyne Pipe Organs, included the complete restoration of the 8’ Open Diapason and the 16’ Gedeckt, each of these containing 97 pipes. Both the main bellows and the Swell Engine were completely rebuilt, for the first time since the initial installation of organ. The top of the regulator had to be removed and replicated. All flex line tubing was replaced with hard line tubing, which assists in wind stability. Some of the sky racks had to be reconstructed, repaired, and/or reinforced to increase protection from potential earthquake damage. All ranks of pipes and organ chambers were cleaned, repaired, and tuned. Finally, the lighting systems in the organ pipe room were modified to aid in the future maintenance of the organ.

We would like to thank all those who contributed to this project. We could not have done this without the support of our church family and community. All contributions, be it from 2 cents to thousands of dollars, have all been greatly appreciated. We would especially like to honor the late Dan Burkhart. His love of music, and especially our organ, has inspired us all and was our catalyst to start us on this journey. We would like to express special thanks to Wayne Keith, who has helped nudge us along and kept us focused on the importance of this monumental task; to the VanderMolens, who without their gracious promise of financial support, we might never have gotten started; and finally, to Ryan Ballantyne who’s expertise has made this restoration possible.


Marker No. 2: First Congregational Church

Source: Corona Historic Preservation Society Tour of Historic Corona Church Buildings on Sunday, April 21, 1991.
The “First Church” in South Riverside was a small wooden structure
built, where the congregational doctrine was used but all faiths were
welcome (2-1). It was built in 1888 on land donated by the South Riverside Land and Water Company, on the corner of Eighth and Ramona Streets. The current, commanding Tudor Revival structure replaced it in 1911 (2-2).

The building features beautiful Tiffany stained glass windows on three sides, fine brick and granite masonry, two towers, and in traditional Tudor fashion, steep gables and half timbering. The sanctuary includes a cantilevered balcony, a large circular stained glass window high on the south wall, and Corona’s first pipe organ (a Robert Morgan pipe organ installed in 1928) that is still in use. The First Congregational Church, at the southeast corner of Eighth Street and Ramona Avenue, at 809 S. Ramona, remains a fixture in Corona’s
downtown. It was designed by noted California architect, Norman Foote Marsch (2-3). A bronze marker plaque was placed on the northwest corner wall on July 1996 during a dedication ceremony as a part of Corona’s Centennial celebration.
Footnote References:
2-1 First Congregational Church of Corona, 2003 Fact sheet based on the Abbreviated History of First Congregational Church monograph in possession of the Corona Historic Preservation Society and Corona Public Library
2-2 First Congregational Church of Corona, Abbreviated History of First Congregational Church , 2-page historical compilation
2-3 The First Churches in Corona, a fact sheet used during the Corona Historic Preservation Society Tour of Historic Corona Church Buildings on Sunday, April 21, 1991. Facts about the First Congregational Church, the Fletcher Methodist Episcopal Church, Corona’s First Baptist Church, St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church of Corona and the First Christion Church, all of which were organized prior to the end of 1892. and Corona Planning Department records for Corona Local Landmark # HL-040, also, Corona Historic Preservation Society, 2016 Vintage Home Tour Program/Pamphlet.