St. Michael’s By-the-Sea Episcopal Church is the oldest, and was for many years the only church in Carlsbad. It was established by families of the early English settlers in the area and consecrated by the Rt. Rev. William Nichols, Bishop of California. Our historic chapel, Old St. Michael’s, built in 1894, is one of the four oldest buildings in the village. St. Michael’s is the only church in the diocese to have both the old and the new church on the same property in use for services. The Daily Offices and Holy Eucharist are held in the chapel as are other special services throughout the year, including weddings and funerals.
The first vicar, the Reverend William Jacob, came to Oceanside from Iowa. He founded and served as vicar of eight missions in the area, traveling by horse and buggy to Oceanside, Escondido, Encinitas, Del Mar, Fallbrook, Murrieta, and San Luis Rey. Vicars served St. Michael’s along with other churches in the area until 1953 when a full time vicar, Fr. John Lockerby, was appointed. Parish status was achieved in 1973 and Fr. W. Aaron Driver became the first rector.
The chapel was not always on this spot. This gothic style, white frame structure was originally built at Lincoln and Oak Streets. In 1959, it was carefully moved to this site and has been designated an historical landmark. The Parish Hall, built in 1928, was also moved onto the site.
On September 27, 1959, the new church building of rose beige concrete block was dedicated by The Rt. Rev. Francis Bloy, Bishop of Los Angeles. It was designed by the architectural firm Frey and Chambers of Palm Springs. The design was modern for its day, deviating from the traditional cruciform shape, yet retaining the traditional liturgical expression of the parish. It was constructed with no square corners for acoustical reasons. The exposed ceiling beams are of Douglas fir. A triangular bell tower consisting of two bells adorns the southern angle of the building and calls the faithful to worship. The smaller, California Mission bell, inscribed with Junipero Serra, was used from 1931-1956. The larger bell was cast in 1887 by Meneely and Company New York, and was used as a fire bell in a film shot in Philadelphia. It was brought to Carlsbad and used on a ranch to call in ranch hands before moving to St. Michael’s in 1959.
The spacious sanctuary displays a stained glass window behind the high altar depicting St. Michael the Archangel fighting the dragon with his sword raised high in triumph. The Holy Angels window on the epistle side of the church displays representatives of the rest of the heavenly host. On the gospel side of the church are windows depicting St. Andrew, St. Augustine of Canterbury and St. Joseph of Arimathea, all selected because of their association with the Church of England and our Anglican Heritage. The glass was designed by Wallis-Wiley Studios of Pasadena. The altar is of Italian white marble with a mosaic on the front that is imbedded with Brazilian diamonds, opals, and amethysts that were donated by parishioners. The hand sculpted Christus Rex which hangs above the altar is from Italy as are the hand carved Stations of the Cross.
The Lady altar is adorned with votive candles and a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, a replica of the original at the shrine in Walsingham, also known as “England’s Nazareth.” It provides an historic Anglican focus on the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the healing ministry that is associated with our Mary altar.
In 1965, the Christian Education building was built and furnished in the memory of Jesse T. Boyd. A second story was added in 1993. The building is used for both education and administration.
St. Michael’s has three organs. The 21-rank Casavant organ was installed in 1972. To accommodate the growth of the music program, the organ was expanded to include a Phoenix Digital Organ, the console of which controls both the pipes and the electronics. In the old chapel there are two organs, a Wick’s Pipe and a Miller Reed.
Chronology of St. Michael’s
Some key dates in the history of the mission and parish of St. Michael’s:
- 1894: the original St. Michael’s church is established as the first house of worship in Carlsbad.
- 1928: the first parish hall is built.
- 1953: Rev. John Lockerby is appointed as the first full-time vicar of the parish.
- 1959: The original church is relocated to its present location, and construction of the new church begins.
- 1959: Dedication of the new church building by the Rt. Rev. Francis Bloy, Bishop of Los Angeles.
- 1965: The Christian Education building was built and furnished by Sally Boyd in the memory of her husband, Jesse T. Boyd.
- 1972: A 21-rank Casavant organ pipe organ is installed in the main sanctuary as a gift of Dorothy and Irwin Kelley.
- 1973: The mission becomes a parish of the Diocese of Los Angeles. The last vicar, Rev. W. Aaron Driver, becomes the first rector of St. Michael’s.
- 1973: St. Michael’s becomes a part of the new the Diocese of San Diego, formed from the Diocese of Los Angeles.
- 1977: The church building is consecrated by the Rt. Rev. Robert Wolterstorff, first Bishop of San Diego.
- 1981: The church purchases the remainder of the Carlsbad Boulevard frontage extending to Beech Avenue.
- 1982: Completion of the parish hall expansion adds a library and conference room.
- 1993: Dedication of the expanded, two-story Boyd Hall.
- 1994: St. Michael’s observes a year-long celebration of the parish centennial.
- 1997: Completion of St. Nicholas Playground.
- 1997: A refurbished Wicks Pipe Organ is installed in the chapel.
- 1998: The Betty Ramsay Rose Garden along with the Celtic Cross is dedicated.
- 2005: The Statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, given in memory of Pam Miller, was blessed and dedicated.