After World War II, Carlsbad was thriving economically. The influx of military families had revived the real estate market and the business community. As the land became more and more valuable, the ranches and farms began to disappear, giving way to the post-war suburban lifestyle.
However, the growing population also placed a strain on the area’s resources. The water system was overtaxed and the local school system was overcrowded. A devastating and badly handled house fire incensed residents and highlighted just how precarious their position was concerning basic public services. By the early 1950s, there was growing dissatisfaction with San Diego County’s administration of Carlsbad. Residents believed that a better understanding of their problems and a faster solution to those problems would occur if civic matters were handled locally.
As complaints rose, three separate factions evolved: Incorporationists, Annexationists, and Rural Citizens. Incorporationists believed the only solution was to take control of civic issues through formation of a city government. Annexationists believed that the easiest solution would be joining Oceanside, an already existing city. The Rural Citizens, mostly made up of farmers, resisted any of these changes and fought to maintain the status quo. Arguments for and against each viewpoint inundated the newspapers. The debate was often heated and unpleasant. Eventually, on June 24, 1952, the election was won for Incorporation at 781 to 714 votes.
Two years later, water was brought down from the Colorado River, resolving the long-standing water problems. The headlines of the Carlsbad Journal on June 24 1954, proclaimed “Colorado Water Now Flows Into Carlsbad.” The long-awaited day gave city officials a reason to celebrate.
Shortly thereafter, they began to work on building a city. New fire and police departments were planned, roads and schools were expanded, and parks were built as the community rallied to build their small town into a city.
[PHOTO] The first city officials were both elected and appointed on July 19, 1952. Pictured from left to right are (first row) City Treasurer W. Roy Pace; City Clerk Col. Edward Hagen; and City Attorney T. Bruce Smith; (second row) Council Members Lena Sutton and Manuel Castorena; Mayor C.D. “Dewey” McClellan; and Council Members George Grober and St. Michael’s own Ray Ede, who became Carlsbad’s second mayor.
[ABOVE PHOTO] A letter from the Rev. Lockerby with a header illustration that features an early design for the church.
[RIGHT PHOTO] The Rev. Lockerby showcasing the progress.
Growing St. Michael’s
In 1953 the membership of St. Michael’s had grown sufficiently to require a full-time priest. Rev. John Bradley Lockerby was appointed by the Bishop as Vicar of St. Michael’s. Under his leadership, the communicant strength rapidly increased and it became necessary to plan for a new and larger church building. His vision would set the stage for the next major phase in St. Michael’s history.
Committees were formed and the work began to reach that desired goal. Two fundraising campaigns were held: one in 1956 to cover architect’s fees and one in 1959 to complete the actual construction. They were conducted with the Rev. Hugh M. Reiner, pastor at the Methodist Church in Oceanside.
Florence Magee (Mrs. Hugh Magee) donated the one-quarter of a city block on which the new church was to be built and arranged for the transfer to the new site of the original church chapel building, together with the parish hall and other items.
[PHOTO] In 1959, the historic chapel was lifted up and processed down the street to the present location.
The Large Bell
On July 8, 1956, the large bell was given in memory of Viola R. Keenan by L.W. Keenan and Mr. & Mrs. John R. Keenan. It was cast in 1887 by Meneely and Company, West Troy, N.Y. and was used as a fire bell in Philadelphia, where a Hollywood Company was filming motion pictures.
When they returned to California, so did the bell. It probably came directly to the Cummings Ranch House at Adams and Tamarack, which later became the family home of the Keenans. Iriving Cummings was Shirley Temple’s film director. The bell was delivered to the church at Lincoln and Oak and immediately placed in service. Three years later it took its honored position in the bell tower.
The architectural firm of Frey and Chambers of Palm Springs was engaged to guide the members of St. Michael’s in developing their plans. They were responsible for the design of the exterior as well as the interior of the church. There were many meetings to review the plans and plot out of the parish hall, and to designate future expansion areas and other facilities as needed. There were many in the church who wondered about the modernistic design of the church, and what the committee was actually doing in supporting the so-called “newfangled” ideas for the building of an Episcopal Church, which historically had the traditional shape of a cross.
From the Architects: “We were asked to create an economical design, permanent in materials, and deeply religious in feeling. The simple, unadorned structure of reinforced concrete block and exposed wood beams reflect the honest strength and serenity of the building. The design elements are created to express the traditional and liturgical requirements of the church and the character of the historical coastland.”
The altar is made from Italian white marble, which was donated by Mrs. Ling. The mosaic on the front of the altar was handcrafted by Mrs. Ling and dedicated to the memory of her son.
A local paper on the altar notes that the mosaic was “painstakingly designed and fashioned by a communicant who spent five to six hours a day for seven months cutting, fitting and grouting tile and jewels into a lasting tribute to God.”
The marble work was done by Mr. Eyman, a local contractor whose home and shop was right across Carlsbad Blvd. from the church. The tabernacle is made out of Mexican onyx, and the hanging Christus Rex was made in Italy.
Text Sources, Photos, and References:
• A History of San Diego North County: From Mission to Millennium (2001) by Lola Sherman
• Windows on the Past: An Illustrated History of Carlsbad, California (2002) by Susan Schnebelen Gutierrez
• The Carlsbad Historical Society
• Historic Carlsbad: A Self-Guided Tour, Carlsbad City Library Brochure
• St. Michael’s History Booklet: From 1894 to 1983
• St. Michael’s Archive