One of our most iconic landmarks

Why the Mendocino Presbyterian Church deserves a visit

Matilja Poppies at the Mendo Presbyterian Church

 We paused in our walk to gaze up at the postcard view gently illuminated by the late afternoon sunshine. Clean white walls rose to a precise grey steeple. Ocean blue doors harmonized with the clear sky, reminiscent of the waves rolling steadily across Mendocino Bay at our backs. We breathed deeply, savoring the crisp air and snuggling our hands deeper into our cozy pockets. There was a happy smile welling up from somewhere in our chest and hovering just behind the corners of our eyes. Indeed, how could we not be filled with quiet joy as we drank in the lovely peacefulness of the Mendocino Presbyterian Church?

We seem to find ourselves in front of this iconic landmark quite often, whether for a church service, a community event, a concert, or even just as we walk on by down the path that leads to Big River Beach. And every time we round the corner of the building, it’s the same thing – we are drawn to stop, look up, and drink it all in.  Maybe this is because today’s roads only allow access from the back of the church, which means the graceful English Gothic façade sort of pops out on you unexpectedly as you come around the last turn in the walkway. “Surprise! I’m here!” it seems to say, and you are instantly mesmerized by the elegantly delicate architecture that just sprang into view.

Or perhaps the church draws attention because of the sense of living history that shines out of its beautiful stained glass windows. The Mendocino Presbyterian congregation built this sanctuary in 1868, and through the last 150 years it has been a faithful part of the community, bringing together people of all types and persuasions in fellowship and brotherly love. In recognition of its history, it was declared a California Historical Landmark in 1959 for being one of the oldest continuously running Protestant churches in California.

Yet again, it might be that simple air of brotherly love and commitment to the greater community that attracts notice. After all, not a week goes by but there is at least one event or other that the church opens its doors to – community choir concerts in the sanctuary, swing dancing every Friday night and frequent chamber music in the hall, weddings, funerals, baby showers and more. And somehow, the life and joy of all this activity enlivens the very physical aspect the church. Don’t ask us how, go see for yourself!

When you go visit, whether for a concert, the Sunday worship service, or Friday night swing dancing, take note of all the little points that make Mendocino Presbyterian Church one of our favorite historical sites in town. Observe the gilded details on the exquisitely preserved original chandelier and wall sconces lining the sanctuary (once oil, now electrified).  Stop to listen to the 1,000 lb bell shipped around the Horn from New York in 1870 that still rings out to announce the start of church services, weddings, and other important gatherings. Gaze upon those glorious stained glass windows and the unique banners at the front of the sanctuary that were all crafted by local artists working together.  

 Then, once you’ve pondered this darling Presbyterian Church, you’ll know why we think of it as a true local gem, why we love that we get to count it as a vital part of our community. If you haven’t already given it the visit it deserves, remind us the next time you come stay, and we’ll map out a day in town for you that includes it as a highlight. At the end of the day you can tell us your own thoughts on this iconic landmark, what your time with this little church has meant to you.  

Written by Laura Hockett