By Mary O’KEEFE
Eighty-six years ago this Easter the cornerstone was laid for the building of St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church. Since then the church, located at the northeast corner of Foothill and Rosemont, has been a cornerstone of the valley. The Historical Society of Crescenta Valley highlighted that long history of the old French country stone church on Sunday afternoon. The tour was led by church member Charly Shelton.
“They say God works in mysterious ways. Well, if artist S. Seymour Thomas had not become ill, needing a place with healthy air, there would probably still be a St. Luke’s Episcopal Church here on the corner but it would have looked much different,” Shelton said.
S. Seymour Thomas was a well-known artist. His portrait of President Woodrow Wilson is still displayed at the White House. He and his wife were residents of La Crescenta in a home on Rosemont Avenue they called Cuddle Doon.
After an afternoon tea at home, the artist went to the land at the corner of what is now Rosemont and Foothill, which was donated by Madame Louise Janvier, and began to paint. The result was a plan in the form of a painting for a stone church whose architecture was influenced heavily by the artist’s time in France.
That painting still hangs in the Vicar’s office. Rev. Bryan Jones, the new vicar of St. Luke’s, placed that and another Thomas painting on exhibit for those attending Sunday’s tour.
A search of the church’s basement revealed several historical items including blueprints from remodeling in the 1950s and marriage, baptism and attendance records that dated back to 1924.
The chimes were also a subject of discussion during the tour. Shelton told the audience that the chimes were dedicated in 1926 by Robert and Alma Watchhorn in memory of their son Emery who had died in World War I. They are one of only 115 sets still in use in the United States that are striking chimes.
“Most of chimes made now are electrical,” Shelton said.
In addition to the paintings, one of Thomas’s sculptures was donated to St. Luke’s.
Joanne Longman Clark no longer lives in Crescenta Valley but is a member of the historical society. She sent a sculpture of a child to Mike Lawler, president of the society. The sculpture had belonged to her late father. She knew that Thomas had designed the church and that it was home to other works of art. She wanted to donate the piece to add to that collection, Lawler said.
The church will be celebrating Easter services at 10 a.m. on Easter morning.