St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church Celebrates 100 Years

The historic stone church prepares for centennial celebration.



Seventy-four years after California obtained statehood, an artist sat on the corner of Rosemont Avenue and Foothill Boulevard in the small area known as La Crescenta and began to paint his dream church. The church would be made from the stones and rocks in the area and, from the beginning, was created to be the center of the community.

That artist was Seymour Thomas and the dream church he was designing was St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church, which is now celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Since it was built, St. Luke’s has been the place for community gatherings.

“St. Luke’s is not only a spiritual community serving the needs of its parishioners but also the center of the greater [Crescenta Valley] community. We plan a wide range of activities and projects that help knit together the community, from social service organizations like the CV Lions Club and Prom Plus to professional organizations like the CV Chamber of Commerce. St. Luke’s has never seen itself as primarily ‘inwardly focused’ but has striven to serve those of all faiths – or no faith at all,” said Stephen Mack, director of Community Relations.

Seymour Thomas was born in Texas and studied portraiture in New York and Paris, where he won a number of medals including France’s Legion of Honor in 1905. When World War I broke out, Thomas and his wife moved to America and settled in La Crescenta. Thomas painted hundreds of portraits, including three of President Woodrow Wilson – one of which hangs in the White House, according to the Smithsonian.

Thomas loved the community he and his wife called home. They lived on Rosemont Avenue in a home they called “Cuddle Doon.” He wanted an Episcopal church in the community and had talked to Madame Louise Janvier, who donated the land, about building one.

On Easter morning, April 20, 1924, Thomas’ vision was dedicated culminated with the laying of the cornerstone of the church.

“On Saturday, April 20, we’re throwing a birthday party – a gift to the whole community including activities such as music and dancing. The event is free. And so is the food,” Mack said.

St. Luke’s has been a staple in the community during fires, floods and earthquakes. It has been a place for weddings, funerals and wakes and, like the community itself, the stone church survives with support from its CV family.

“St. Luke’s of the Mountains is a village church – a church that actively strives to reflect the richly diverse Crescenta Valley community it is solemnly committed to serve,” said Mack.

The architecture of the church is unique; the stones that are at the building’s foundation came from the Angeles National Forest. The church is made from the bedrock of the Crescenta Valley.

The church also hosts the Fire House youth center that was founded by local residents and youth.

Over 10 years ago the Crescenta Valley saw an increase in heroin use. The CV Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition (CVDAPC) was formed and within that organization was a youth sector. Kids from the area, led by Prom Plus Club members, held meetings to discuss how youth could be supported. CVDAPC members were told kids just wanted a place where they would feel safe. St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church’s then-vicar Bryan Jones was contacted and worked to open the youth center. Not long after it opened it became a place where all were welcome, reflecting the attitude of the church itself. Since its inception, the Fire House has hosted career days, college information meetings, girl empowerment events, Cars 101 (where kids learned about cars), art exhibits and much more. It has also provided a space for kids to gather during tragic events to comfort each other and find support.

CVDAPC has since ended but the Fire House continues with its mission to support the youth of the community and now, with the creation of a new organization called CV Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition aka CV Cares, the Fire House is once again joining others to support youth through drug education.

Fire House is open every Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. for Rosemont Middle School students. The students have a breakfast of sausage, pancakes and cereal and get to spend time with their friends before school. Wednesday mornings are “late start” at the middle school (school starts at 9:28 a.m. rather than 8:30 a.m.) so the Fire House provides parents with a place they can drop off their children and they can enjoy breakfast before walking to school. It is also open on Thursdays from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. for Homework Café where students can get help with their homework. All events are free at the Fire House.

With the decline in organized church attendance across the country, the longevity of St. Luke’s is even more impressive. When asked what contributes to the staying power of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Mack said, “Simple answer, and to borrow some phrasing from [President Abraham] Lincoln, we never forget that we are of the community, by the community and, most importantly, for the community.”

The April 20 celebration at St. Luke’s of the Mountains, 2563 Foothill Blvd., begins at 4 p.m. It is free to the community and also acts as the kick-off for an annual fundraiser.

“St. Luke’s – The Stone Church – has always been the iconic and architectural center of the Crescenta Valley,” Mack added. “Over the decades, its beautiful open grounds and romantic buildings have said home to thousands of residents, many who have never even seen the inside of our sanctuary. Many only know us as the peaceful shortcut from Foothill to Rosemont [School], the place to sit for a quiet lunch or the open-air chapel where they can rest in solitude. Whoever you are, St. Luke’s is here for you with an open ear and non-judgmental heart.”