Community pulls out checkbook to save Clunie Hall Community Center

When the City of Sacramento announced this fall that the Clunie Hall Community Center, located at 601 Alhambra Boulevard at McKinley Park, was in jeopardy of closing this July due to city budget issues, a community-wide campaign was launched to keep it fully operating. Residents and business owners of East Sacramento, members of McKinley Library, and McKinley Park enthusiasts didn’t waste any time to save their 75 year-old iconic building.

SAVED! Local businesses and residents stepped up to save the Clunie Community Center, which houses the McKinley Library. The iconic East Sacramento structure celebrated its 75th birthday last October. / Image courtesy, Friends of McKinley Library. Painting by East Sacramento artist David Lobenberg

SAVED! Local businesses and residents stepped up to save the Clunie Community Center, which houses the McKinley Library. The iconic East Sacramento structure celebrated its 75th birthday last October. / Image courtesy, Friends of McKinley Library. Painting by East Sacramento artist David Lobenberg

“We have $29,000 for this fiscal year to pay for everyday maintenance such as the heating, air conditioning, janitorial and part time staff for the Clunie Center. We could not guarantee that we could continue to allocate that much for the building,” explained Lori Harder, City Administrative Manager of Parks and Recreation. “The potential of closing the community center and eventually the adjoining McKinley Library, those two things happening were very alarming for the community around McKinley Park. So members of the community stepped up to raise funds and manage the building.”

Friends of East Sac rally

The initial rally to help raise funds came from members of the non-profit group, Friends of East Sac. According to the organization’s Website, the funds represent the committee’s commitment to support those in need and the community.

“Friends of East Sacramento – with the support of every of East Sacramento and Midtown neighborhood association, Councilman Steve Cohn, the Friends of McKinley Library, the city, and donations by hundreds of neighbors – has stepped forward with a 3 year plan to provide non-profit management for the Clunie,” the Website stated. “This will help ensure that the McKinley Library could continue to stay open. The Friends of East Sacramento will model the operation after the very successful Sierra 2 Center in Curtis Park. The nonprofit model of the operation of public facilities is growing nation-wide. But keeping it open and managed by a nonprofit takes start-up money.”

Successful drive

The rebel cry was a success. Within four months, Friends of East Sac, led by East Sacramento resident Cecily Hastings, collected over $60,000 from local businesses, residents, and park supporters to help pay off the City’s $45,000 operating budget.

“We got the call right before the Christmas break and I can tell you, in the past four years we don’t get that kind of good news too often anymore with all the closures of parks and recs. So yea, it was a great Christmas present,” said Harder. “Without the group’s efforts, the Center was most likely to close in July, along with the library inside.”

“We’ve established a $60,000 building fund because this is an old building and we’ve already figured out it’s a money pit,” said Hastings at a City press conference held on Jan. 17 with Mayor Kevin Johnson, Councilmember Steve Cohn and Nancy Cornelius from McKinley-East Sacramento Neighborhood Association (MENA). “We want to restore it to its glory of probably what it was 75 years ago.”

Blueprint to follow

THE CLUNIE HALL COMMUNITY CENTER is an icon built in memory of a Sacramento businesswoman who served the community. In 1934, Florence Turton Clunie’s estate bequeathed $150,000 to build the center – over $2.5 million in today’s dollars. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Stephen Crowley

THE CLUNIE HALL COMMUNITY CENTER is an icon built in memory of a Sacramento businesswoman who served the community. In 1934, Florence Turton Clunie’s estate bequeathed $150,000 to build the center – over $2.5 million in today’s dollars. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Stephen Crowley

At the press conference, Mayor Johnson said the work in East Sacramento is “a blueprint that challenges other areas of the city.”

Harder expanded on the Mayor’s sentiments by adding that this action by residents and businesses in East Sacramento is a community model that the City hopes will continue to emerge to help keep parks and community centers open as the budget deficit continues to chip away at those assets.

“We do have several other community centers that are (scheduled) to close, so we put out calls to non-profits and big local corporations if they want to talk to us about taking over responsibility of other community centers, to keep them open for community meetings, programming for kids, teens and adults,” Harder said. “A great example of this model is the Sierra 2 Center, run by the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association. It makes the Curtis Park neighborhood one of the most unique communities in Sacramento.”

Negotiating a transition

Currently organizers of Friends of East Sac are in negotiations with the City to take over the Center and run the facility at a lower cost than the city has. Organizers believe that, with proper management, the Clunie Hall Community Center could bring in $100,000 a year.

“We are working with their advisory committee to finalize the lease and transition base. They have people with facility management, grant writing, and marketing skills,” Harder said. “We hope the transition will be sometime by this spring or by July. We have great faith this organization will do a superb job in maintaining this center.”

“I bring my family out here to enjoy the park all the time, and this Center has served the community and has enhanced the lives of others in so many ways,” said supporter Robert Schmitt. “We know these are difficult times for many people, but this is a place that anyone can come and benefit from such as the McKinley Library, and the events held inside. I’m glad we have a community that cares so much.”

Clunie by the Numbers

The Clunie Hall Community Center was named for a life-long Sacramento resident, Florence Turton Clunie, wife of pioneer and state congressman Thomas J. Clunie. She was a notable Sacramento businesswoman in her own right. Upon her death in 1934, her estate donated $150,000 for the building of a community center and pool in McKinley Park. The City of Sacramento pitched in an additional $20,000 to establish the McKinley Library at the north end of the new building. Both opened to the public in late 1936.

The Center boasts a beautiful lobby with an art deco look, reminiscent of the 1930s when it was built.

Annual attendance:

Classes organized by Parks and Recreation with private instructors: 5590

Estimated number of people through rental activity (community and nonprofit meetings and events, weddings/family events, library programming, etc.): 33,753

Examples of classes:

Feldenkrais

Piano for Beginners

Spanish 4 Toddlers

Progress made in regional arts education plan in Sacramento schools

Mayor Kevin Johnson held his weekly press conference on March 29 to celebrate the accomplishments of‘Any Given Child,’ a program created by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to provide arts education and arts experiences for schools.
 
Designed for students in grades K-8, Sacramento was chosen as the inaugural partner city for ‘Any Given Child’ in Oct. 2009. Planning of the program has been completed and implementation is currently in progress.

The program is housed under Mayor Johnson’s ‘For Arts’ Sake’ initiative and uses resources from Sacramento’s school system, along with those of local artists, local arts organizations, and the Kennedy Center to create a long-range plan for arts education specific to the Sacramento community.

Sacramento Unified and Twin Rivers Unified School Districts were the first school districts chosen to launch this program.

“’Any Given Child’ has provided Sacramento with a tremendous opportunity to expand student access to the arts and strengthen arts education across our community. This year’s progress has proved to be a success and we look forward to a continued partnership with the Kennedy Center to help provide arts education to students for years to come,” Johnson said.

Kennedy Center Director of National Partnerships, Barbara Shepherd, was on hand to discuss national expansion of the ‘Any Given Child’ program, which seeks to bring access, balance, and equity to each child’s arts education, using an affordable model that combines the resources of the school district, local arts groups and the Kennedy Center.

With the assistance of expert consultation services provided by Kennedy Center staff and other professionals, community leaders are developing a long-range plan for arts education that is tailor-made for the Sacramento school district and community, and allows for local expansion of the program.

“Sacramento has been a model launch city for this initiative,” said Darrell M. Ayers, vice president of Education at the Kennedy Center. “Working with Sacramento’s Any Given Child Governing Council has helped us further shape this program. It’s been wonderful to see the unyielding support for the arts and for arts education in the Sacramento region, both through the Mayor’s commitment and through local arts organizations and individuals. We have now expanded the program to Springfield, Missouri; Portland, Oregon and Las Vegas, Nevada with additional cities to come.”

By partnering with local arts organizations and using existing resources, the program aims to create little administrative overhead, remaining affordable. The first phase of the program, a comprehensive audit of existing arts education resources and needs assessment by Kennedy Center staff and consultants, began in October of 2009 in Sacramento.

A review of the community and the school system revealed that 93% of area teachers believe integrating more arts into education will help them meet some of their classroom challenges. 71 percent of schools surveyed through ‘Any Given Child’ do not provide arts education programs. Based on this information, a plan was created that built arts education back into the school day, through providing professional development for teachers and connecting community arts educators with classrooms and schools.

A total of 36 classrooms are working with seven residency artists from the Sacramento community.

Students in these classes are receiving hands-on arts education experiences in many different arts genres. Classroom teachers have been able to take advantage of supplemental lessons with online interactive learning modules and videos developed by the Kennedy Center such as those available on www.artsedge.org. The goal is to provide a tapestry of arts education, weaving together existing arts classes with available outside resources.

By the end of the school year, arts experiences in the form of in-school arts assemblies will have reached 39,463 students in a total of 129 assemblies throughout the two school districts.

The program will be expanding in the next school year to provide an even deeper arts education experience for Sacramento’s K-8 students.

As part of the ‘Any Given Child’ initiative, Sacramento has had access to Kennedy Center arts education resources, including professional development opportunities in the arts and arts integration for teachers and artists; resources on the Internet including lesson plans, interactive modules, and videos; and other arts education programs from the Kennedy Center.

Mayor Johnson launched his arts initiative, ‘For Arts’ Sake’ in 2009 to bring the arts community together, find ways the City of Sacramento can support the arts, and develop a strategy that will enable the arts community to withstand these challenging economic times.

Council Member Cohn addresses Kings/Arena situation

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Sacramento City Council Member Steve Cohn’s monthly newsletter to District 3.

 

Sacramento City Council Member Steve Cohn / Photo courtesy

Sacramento City Council Member Steve Cohn / Photo courtesy

Kings/Arena Update

 

 

As anyone knows who either lives in Sacramento or follows our media, the Kings have asked the NBA for a six-week time extension of the March 1 deadline to file a request to move the Kings to Anaheim.

As Mayor Johnson said, “This means one thing: They are trying to cut a deal to leave. They don’t have a deal yet, but they hope to in the next few weeks.”

Time will tell whether this is the end of Sacramento’s partnership with the Kings. If so, it’s been quite a ride. Since opening night on Oct. 25, 1985 at the original, temporary Arco Arena, through the 1988 opening of the current arena, until Feb. 28, 2011 when the last game was played in “Arco Arena” (now “Power Balance Pavilion”), it has been a roller coaster ride for the team and our community.

For more than a decade, this community sold out each and every home game, despite consistent last-place finishes, some forgettable lineups, and only two playoff appearances in 14 years. Then in 1999, the Kings started a run of playoff years that reached a peak in 2002, when the Kings were indisputably the best team in the NBA, and but for poor officiating and free throw shooting, would have won the NBA Championship. Not even the most casual of Sacramento sports fans will ever forget the glory team of Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Mike Bibby, Doug Christie, Bobby Jackson, Peja Stojakovic and a great cast of bench players who would dive to the floor for every loose ball and fight for every rebound. They were a team that Sacramento could truly be proud of, playing unselfishly and harmoniously, making the collective whole so much greater than the sum of its parts. A reflection of our community, which may not be as photogenic and glamorous as our big coastal city brethren, but is the most livable big city in America.

Who in Sacramento hasn’t said when defending our fair city that we may not be the best place to visit, but we are the best place to live?

Yet even during the team’s heyday, there were signs that Camelot was not going to last forever.

First, it was the former owners’ unsavory demand for favors that led to the Council’s approval of a $73 million loan in 1997. (To set the record straight, the Kings have made every payment on that back-loaded loan, though the balance remains at $67 million).

Then there were several failed attempts to finance a new Downtown arena, culminating in the disastrous Measures Q/R in 2006. Although the sales tax measure was decidedly one-sided in favor of the Kings, the Maloofs still weren’t satisfied and through a series of public relations gaffes, indirectly helped defeat the measure by an astounding 80-20 margin.

Those of you who have followed my career on the Council know that I opposed the Council loan and Measures Q and R. I have not taken a religious position that forever would prohibit the use of public funds for an arena, but I have consistently stood up for taxpayers to ensure that any arena financing deal show clear benefits to the City and its taxpayers, and not a hand out to pampered professional team owners or players.

So where does Sacramento stand now? I agree with our Mayor and others who say that the goal here is bigger than basketball. Today, we will work hard to keep the Kings, using every remedy short of public subsidies possible. That’s why I shared a magical moment with 17,000 other Sacramentans who sold out the Kings game on Feb. 28 and showed the Maloofs what a real home town advantage can be.

But the path to a new entertainment and sports complex will not be an easy one. On Tuesday, Feb. 8, Council unanimously agreed to select the ICON-Taylor development team to take the next three months to work with city staff to analyze and come up with a finance plan for a new sports and entertainment complex.

Council also gave direction that a plan would need to take the Natomas community into consideration. If a new arena were to be built somewhere other than Natomas, there would need to be a project to make up for the loss in that area.

The Council did not approve a development contract or location.

I believe that the best team was chosen to get straight answers on financing. I reiterated at the Feb. 8 Council meeting that for me it comes down to financing. I’ve never been convinced that an arena can be built without some public financing.

The development team plans to move forward even with the most recent news that the King’s ownership are in talks to move the team to Southern California.

ICON is a Denver based company that has built several arenas and sports facilities throughout the world. David Taylor, a local developer has been the driver of much redevelopment in Downtown Sacramento, including the U.S. Bank Tower on Capitol Mall, new City Hall, Esquire Plaza and the Sheraton Grand Sacramento. The team also includes New York based Turner Construction, Populous, a Kansas City, Missouri sports architecture firm and Dan Meis, who designed the Staples Center in L.A.

I’ll keep you posted on these arena developments, but as always, I welcome your ideas as well.

Visit Council Member Cohn’s website at www.cityofsacramento.org for up-to-date news. For questions or comments, call (916) 808-7003 or email scohn@cityofsacramento.org.

Mayor Johnson and STAND UP Hold First ‘State of Schools’ Meeting in Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today Mayor Kevin Johnson and STAND UP held the first ‘State of Schools’ meeting in Sacramento at the Guild Theater. Mayor Johnson was joined by Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, in a conversation on the urgent need for reform in Sacramento’s public schools.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson

Today’s meeting focused on the condition of public schools in Sacramento and issued a call to action. The meeting was sponsored by the Black Parallel School Board, Greater Sacramento Urban League, Sacramento Chapter for 100 Black Women, Sacramento NAACP, and the Sacramento Observer in honor of Black History Month.

Currently, less than half of Sacramento schools are meeting academic targets. While Sacramento’s public schools have shown slight increases in academic achievement over recent years, Mayor Johnson believes that the gap is not closing quickly enough.

Johnson stated, “Over the last seven years, city school third graders have improved by an average of two percent per year. This may sound positive, but think about it from this perspective: at the current rate, it will take 20 years before close to 80 percent of our third graders are on grade level. That’s an entire generation.”

Nominated by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Department of Education in 2009, Russlynn Ali has dedicated efforts to underscoring the urgent need to prepare all students for academic success in this global economy.

Mayor Johnson concluded the meeting with a call to action for everyone in the packed Guild Theater to sign up to become members of STAND UP. One priority for STAND UP this year will be recruiting members for their organization and connecting with people who believe in shared core beliefs.

The goal of STAND UP is for Sacramento to have one of the finest public education systems in the nation.

STAND UP will focus on five key pillars of great school systems—accountability, parent engagement, human capital, high quality school choices, and effective policy.

The “State of Schools” is the first in a series of monthly meetings STAND UP will hold throughout the year.

In his State of the City address last month, Mayor Johnson identified education reform as one of his top priorities for 2011. Today’s meeting represents the latest effort to make progress toward his education agenda.

For more info on STAND UP visit www.standup.org

Aviation legend Charles A. Lindbergh visited Sacramento more than 80 years ago

 

Many famous people have visited our capital city, from Queen Elizabeth II and several U.S. presidents to Martin Luther King, Jr. and cyclist Lance Armstrong. But few have drawn the type of attention as did the famous aviator Charles A. Lindbergh during his visit to the Sacramento area 83 years ago.

Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh promoted the new field of aviation by making a three-month tour of the nation in 1927. He entertained Sacramentans with arial acrobatics upon his arrival. / Photo courtesy, Library of Congress

Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh promoted the new field of aviation by making a three-month tour of the nation in 1927. He entertained Sacramentans with arial acrobatics upon his arrival. / Photo courtesy, Library of Congress

After gaining fame by becoming the first person to fly nonstop from New York to Paris, Lindbergh worked with American multimillionaire Harry Guggenheim to arrange for a three-month tour in which Lindbergh would promote aviation by flying to every state in the Union.

Lindbergh began the tour, which was funded by Harry and his father Daniel Guggenheim, at Mitchel Field in Long Island, N.Y. on July 20, 1927.

Flying his Spirit of St. Louis, the same custom-built, single-engine, single-seat monoplane that he had piloted to Paris, Lindbergh flew to 92 cities.

And being that Mather Field had been constructed 12 miles southeast of downtown Sacramento nearly a decade earlier, a suitable, local landing area was available, so that Lindbergh could schedule one of his stops in Sacramento.

Leading up to the time of Lindbergh’s visit to Sacramento, the pages of the local daily newspapers made it no secret that Lindbergh would be visiting the capital city.

One of the earliest of these articles appeared in the July 9, 1927 edition of The Sacramento Bee.

The article noted that although no specific date had been set for Lindbergh’s visit to Sacramento, Arthur S. Dudley, secretary-manager of the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce, had requested that the famous aviator arrive during the California State Fair, which would be held on Sept. 3-10, 1927.

Dudley stressed that with such timing, thousands of Californians who would otherwise not have the opportunity to see Lindbergh would be present in the city to do so.

By July 15, 1927, The Bee announced that Harry Guggenheim had set the date of Sept. 17, 1927 for Lindbergh’s visit to Sacramento.

Less than a month prior to Lindbergh’s arrival, it was decided that the famous aviator would make a visit to the Land Park area.

This decision occurred due to a motion to relocate a reception in honor of Lindbergh from the state fairgrounds on Stockton Boulevard to Moreing Field at the southeast corner of Riverside Boulevard and Y Street (present day Broadway).

The change was made in order to provide a superior facility and a venue that was closer to the main business district.

Many more articles previewed Lindbergh’s Sacramento arrival, which would draw the largest crowd in the history of the city.

Advertisers also partook in opportunities to welcome Lindbergh to the capital city, while also promoting their merchandise.

Breuner’s furniture store at 6th and K streets, for instance, not only advertised that one could purchase a five-piece dining room set for $59.50, but also expressed “a mighty welcome to ‘WE’ (a reference to Lindbergh and his famous plane, the ‘Spirit of St. Louis’).”

Although it was already far from a secret that Charles A. Lindbergh would be arriving in Sacramento on Sept. 17, 1927, The Sacramento Union printed a strong reminder on its front page, as it welcomed the famous aviator to the capital city. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Although it was already far from a secret that Charles A. Lindbergh would be arriving in Sacramento on Sept. 17, 1927, The Sacramento Union printed a strong reminder on its front page, as it welcomed the famous aviator to the capital city. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The Hub department store at 8th and J streets ran an advertisement titled, “Lindbergh Day.” And on this special day, Sept. 17, 1927, a free toy airplane that would “really fly” was given away with each boys’ suit purchased at the store, which sold such suits for as low as $9.85.

When the day finally arrived when Lindbergh would make his appearance in the capital city, The Sacramento Union exclaimed, “Welcome Lindbergh!” in bold letters across its front page, and noted that “all of Sacramento has declared a virtual holiday and thousands of people are flocking here from central and northern California counties.”

At noon, just two hours prior to the arrival of “Lindy” – or “Lucky Lindy,” as he was endearingly nicknamed – Moreing Field was opened to the public and a caravan of automobiles carrying state, county and city officials and others left City Hall to witness Lindbergh’s landing.

At 1:30 p.m., a plane carrying Donald Keyhoe, business manager of the Guggenheim tour, and pilot Philip R. Love landed at Mather Field.

At this point, the anxious crowd became much more anxious, as it awaited the arrival of the famous pilot.

The Bee described the excitement of the event, as the paper reported that thousands of spectators began shouting for “Lindy” after his plane became visible and was approaching the field.

According to The Union, three women were knocked down in a “break of the crowd.”

Prior to landing, Lindbergh surprised the crowd by flying over it at about 100 miles per hour.

Lindbergh then put on a brief air show as he circled the field and performed various turns and swoops.

After landing at 2:10 p.m., Lindbergh stepped out of his plane four minutes later, greeted the roaring crowd, shook the hands of several people, including Governor Clement C. Young and Sacramento Mayor Alfred E. Goddard, and soon headed to Sacramento in the lead car of a parade.

The parade made its way to 23rd and J streets and then continued through the business district to Moreing Field, where Lindbergh spoke to about 10,000 people.

The Union reported that few people heard Lindbergh’s speech, because he was so tall that his voice barely reached the microphone.

But The Union added that it was evident that the crowd was nonetheless excited by its opportunity to see their “hero of the age.”

During the reception, which began at about 3:30 p.m., Young and Goddard gave short addresses and Lindbergh was presented with a gold trowel on behalf of organized labor and a watch fob having a white gold airplane and a locket of Sacramento County gold from the city.

During the afternoon and throughout the following day, Lindbergh’s plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, was on display to the public at Mather Field.

On the evening of Lindbergh’s arrival, a banquet was held in his honor in the Florentine Room at the Hotel Senator on L Street, between 11th and 12th streets, just north of the state Capitol.

Despite a previous announcement to the public that Lindbergh would spend his second day in Sacramento resting within the walls of his room at the Hotel Senator, many people in Sacramento were reported to have been disappointed that they could not see Lindbergh during this time.

But nonetheless, Lindbergh’s Sacramento visit, which was witnessed by about 200,000 people, was one for the record books.

After creating much excitement in the capital city, Lindbergh was met by a crowd of about 2,500 people at Mather Field on the morning of Sept. 19, 1927.

Taking off from the field in his famous plane, Lindbergh was later seen flying over the dome of the Capitol en route to Reno.

Lindbergh successfully completed the Guggenheim tour at Mitchel Field on Oct. 23, 1927.

lance@valcomnews.com

Progressive, Pioneer Congregational Church founded in 1849

It is quite fitting that directly south of Sutter’s Fort – the 19th century establishment that predates the founding of the city of Sacramento – sits a church that was established when the fort was only a decade old.
A Christmas service is held in the church’s 5,500-square-foot sanctuary in this c. 1950 photograph. / Photo courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

A Christmas service is held in the church’s 5,500-square-foot sanctuary in this c. 1950 photograph. / Photo courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

Presently located at 2700 L St., this church – the Pioneer Congregational Church – was organized on Sunday, Sept. 16, 1849 in a schoolhouse on the northwest corner of 3rd and I streets.

During this time, the church was known as the First Church of Christ and was led by its pastor, the Rev. Joseph Augustine Benton.

Benton, who served as the church’s pastor for all of its first 14 years, with the exception of an 18-month leave of absence, boarded the California-bound ship, Edward Everett, in Boston on Jan. 12, 1849.

Aboard the ship was a group of 150 men, of whom Benton was their chaplain.

After reaching Yerba Buena (present day San Francisco) seven months later, Benton spent only four days there before making his way to Sacramento.

Despite reaching Sacramento on July 14, 1849, Benton arrived sick and was unable to immediately preach.

Yale grad pastorAn early record of the church shows that Benton, who was a graduate of Yale College (present day Yale University) and the Yale seminary, preached in a grove near the southeast corner of 3rd and K streets on July 22, 1849.

Following this sermon, Benton spent about two weeks along the Mokelumne River and in his journal he noted the high costs of food in the area during these Gold Rush times. These prices included $5 for a loaf of bread and $1.50 for a pie.

About five weeks after returning from the Mokelumne River area, Benton served as chairman of the aforementioned Sept. 16, 1849 gathering that established the church to “embrace all Congregationalists and Presbyterians.” The policy of the church, however, was Congregational.

A report of the church’s early activities names 27 members of the church in 1849. The only female member of the church at this time and for its first two years was Mrs. James Alexander.

Two months after the church’s founding, a lot was purchased on 3rd Street, near M Street for the purpose of constructing a chapel.

The chapel was never built at this location, however, and the $1,500 invested in the property was exchanged for a 40-foot by 80-foot parcel on the west side of 6th Street, between I and J streets.

The Rev. Joseph Augustine Benton, shown in this historic drawing, served as the church’s first pastor from 1849 to 1863. / Image courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

The Rev. Joseph Augustine Benton, shown in this historic drawing, served as the church’s first pastor from 1849 to 1863. / Image courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

1850 misfortunes

A natural disaster occurred in Sacramento on Jan. 8, 1850, as floodwaters spread from the embarcadero to Sutter’s Fort. And as a result of the flood, religious services in the city were suspended for the following two months.

On April 7, 1850, a committee was formed to raise funds to have a church structure built on the 6th Street property.

After the frame of a building was purchased and arranged to be delivered to Sacramento for the future church, the main part of the frame was burned in a fire in San Francisco on May 3, 1850.

First cornerstone laid

The following month, a parsonage was constructed on the property and the cornerstone was placed for the new church on Sept. 4, 1850.

When completed, the Grecian-style church building measured 30 feet by 60 feet and included a tower and a gallery for the choir.

Ironically, the church’s Ladies Benevolent Society was established on July 13, 1853, which was exactly one year prior to one of the most tragic times in the church’s history.

1854 fire

The church, which had a bell added to its features and had been enlarged by 12 feet, was destroyed in the July 13, 1854 fire that began shortly after 1 p.m. at the back of B.C.

This flyer advertises for the Jan. 11, 1865 lecture by the church’s second pastor, the Rev. Isaac Edson Dwinell. The event raised funds for the purchase of the church’s organ, which was acquired during the following month. /Photo courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

This flyer advertises for the Jan. 11, 1865 lecture by the church’s second pastor, the Rev. Isaac Edson Dwinell. The event raised funds for the purchase of the church’s organ, which was acquired during the following month. /Photo courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

Newcomb’s furniture store at 77 K St., between 3rd and 4th streets. The fire continued to 7th and I streets, where it destroyed the county courthouse.

Only two weeks passed before efforts were made to build a new church building.

In the meantime, services were held at a pair of alternative sites, including at a theater building on 3rd Street, between I and J streets.

Second cornerstone laid

On property purchased by the church, almost directly across from the old church on the northeast side of the alley between I and J streets on 6th Street, the cornerstone for the new church building was laid on Sept. 21, 1854.

A dedication service, which included a sermon by Benton, was held on Dec. 31, 1854.

Presbyterian exodus

1950s members of the Pioneer Congregational Church’s all-female Tri-S Club, which was founded in 1932. (Left to right) Mary Stacy, Lois Sucher and Marjorie McKesson. / Photo courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

1950s members of the Pioneer Congregational Church’s all-female Tri-S Club, which was founded in 1932. (Left to right) Mary Stacy, Lois Sucher and Marjorie McKesson. / Photo courtesy of Pioneer Congregational Church

By early 1856, all but two Presbyterians left the church to assist in establishing the First Presbyterian Church in Sacramento.

A week following Benton’s 10th anniversary sermon on June 14, 1859, he took his aforementioned leave of absence, as he traveled around the world. This trip included time spent in China and the Holy Land.

After his return to Sacramento, Benton gave lectures about the Holy Land and other places he had visited.

The winter of 1861-62 brought a devastating flood to Sacramento and as a result of this flood, 14 inches of water sat on the church’s floor before it was raised.

On Feb. 22, 1863, Benton preached his farewell sermon, as many tears were shed.

Benton, who passed away on April 9, 1892, was buried in a cemetery at the corner of 13th and Clay streets in Oakland.

Second pastor

Succeeding Benton as pastor was the Rev. Isaac Edson Dwinell, who served in this position for 20 years.

 

About a year after Benton’s departure, a well documented drive was conducted to obtain an organ for the church, which was then often referred to as the Sixth Street Congregational Church. The church was officially incorporated as the First Congregational Church of Christ on June 20, 1899.

The organ drive resulted in a Boston-manufactured organ, which The Sacramento Union later called “the largest and finest instrument of the Pacific Coast outside of San Francisco,” being purchased and transported to the church from Massachusetts. The first concert using this organ was held on Feb. 23, 1865.

In 1905, the church building underwent an extensive interior renovation, which included the laying of new carpet, the placement of new stained glass windows and the remodeling and enlargement of the organ through funds provided by the heirs of Charles and Mary Crocker.

The renovated church was the site of local aid given to refugees of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, as cots were provided in the basement and food and clothing were distributed.

In June 1910, Cornelia E. Fratt donated the northeast corner of 15th and P streets to the church and discussions were held regarding the possibility of the construction of a new church building. The church, however, decided not to build a structure at this site.

In 1923, the church’s 6th Street property was sold for $35,000 and despite a movement by Mayor Albert Elkus to save the old church building, which had also served as the city’s only auditorium, the structure was eventually demolished.

Although the church purchased property at 29th and J streets, it was discovered that the site was too small for its planned church building.

As a result, property was acquired just west of the church’s then-temporary meeting site – the Tuesday Clubhouse at 2722 L St. – for the construction of the present church building.

Third cornerstone laid

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new church building were held on March 30, 1926 and the cornerstone was laid six days later.

Pastor Phil Konz has been serving as the church’s settle minister since last August. He will officially be installed as the church’s pastor on Feb. 27. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Pastor Phil Konz has been serving as the church’s settle minister since last August. He will officially be installed as the church’s pastor on Feb. 27. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The current church building, which was constructed by the McGillivray Construction Co., was dedicated on Nov. 21, 1926. It was also during this time that the church became known as the Pioneer Memorial Congregational Church.

Part of the historic Crocker organ was placed in the church structure and Mary E. Noyes donated the church’s large lantern lighting fixtures.

Centennial in 1949

In celebration of the church’s 100th anniversary, a “Centennial Week” was held from Sept. 11–18, 1949. The event concluded with a historical pageant on the Sutter’s Fort lawn, directly across from the church.

The church celebrated its 125 anniversary, beginning with the Wild West Picnic in Elk Grove Park in 1974.

A unique moment in the church’s history occurred during Queen Elizabeth’s 1983 tour of Sacramento.

During the queen’s visit to Sutter’s Fort, members viewed the event from the church, while the church’s bell announced and welcomed her arrival.

It was also during 1983 that the Rev. Lewis Knight, who is best remembered for his ministry with Francis House and AIDS patients, was installed as minister.

In 1992, George Meir, who according to the church’s history is “charged with leading the congregation toward renewal and revitalization,” began his pastorate at the church, which developed its mission statement: “Spiritual Pioneers caring for God’s diverse community.”

Progressive church

The church’s settle minister since last August, Pastor Phil Konz, 60, recently described the church as “always being on the cutting edge.”

The Pioneer Congregational Church sanctuary is shown in this recent photograph. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The Pioneer Congregational Church sanctuary is shown in this recent photograph. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

“As you come into the sanctuary, there’s beauty and serenity, but there’s also a sense of history and tradition, while at the same time, everything that we do from the preaching and the activities in the congregation and the community is progressive,” said Konz, whose official installation as the church’s pastor will occur on Feb. 27. “While churches were arguing in the 1960s about ordaining women, our forebearers were doing that in the 1850s. While integration was a big issue in the 1960s, our forebearers had already done that in the 1700s. Where ordaining gay clergy is a big issue today, we passed that barrier 30 years ago and we ordain gay clergy now. So, always being on the cutting edge has been part of this and having a traditional-looking sanctuary helps us to be rooted in the past, but it also frees us to go on and become pioneers in spiritual issues.”

In summarizing the church’s many changes, Konz, who was born in Nigeria and was the son of a Lutheran missionary, said, “We like to say our faith is 2,000 years old, but our thinking is not.”

Konz added that the church, which is a United Church of Christ denomination, “concentrates on unities and not divisions and the things that unite us as human beings.”

Today, the church, which has less than 100 members – a vast difference compared to the about 1,600 members that were on the church’s rolls during the 1950s and early 1960s – shares its building with the Spiritual Life Center, an independent interfaith church.

For additional information regarding this historic Sacramento church, visit www.pioneer.ucc.net.

lance@valcomnews.com

The current, gothic-style Pioneer Congregational Church building was constructed in 1926. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

The current, gothic-style Pioneer Congregational Church building was constructed in 1926. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Lance Armstrong

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson responds to inquiry on city-county consolidation opportunities

At his weekly press conference on Nov. 5, Mayor Johnson received questions regarding the topic of potential consolidation opportunities between the city and county.

“Our community should always seek new ways to make government more effective in serving our citizens,” he said. “This is especially true in tough times. I think it’s worth having a robust dialogue on how the region can work better together. Consolidation has been one topic many folks have been exploring, and I encourage us to continue this conversation in an open, inclusive and transparent way.”

Johnson noted that he has no specific plan, process or timeline on the issue, but hopes to foster further dialogue in concert with leaders and citizens across the city and region.

‘Hero of the Hudson’ comes to town to kick off ‘Sacramento Ready’

 

Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, III joined Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson at City Hall to kick off “Sacramento Ready,” a citizen education and emergency preparedness initiative.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson presents Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger with the Key to the City of Sacramento. Sullenberger was in town with his family to help the mayor kick off a new citizen education and emergency preparedness initiative. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Stephen Crowley

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson presents Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger with the Key to the City of Sacramento. Sullenberger was in town with his family to help the mayor kick off a new citizen education and emergency preparedness initiative. / Valley Community Newspapers photo, Stephen Crowley

The retired American airline transport pilot who is best known for landing US Airways Flight 1549 – after both engines had been disabled – in the Hudson River off Manhattan, New York City last year, is also a safety expert and accident investigator.

With the modesty and gentle humor for which he is known, the “Hero of the Hudson” spoke to the assembled emergency preparedness groups from organizations including the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, local law enforcement and disaster relief groups.

“I’m often asked how I felt, being thrust into the limelight,” he said. “Actually, it was a lack of thrust on my part that put me here.”

Sullenberger discussed the events of January 15, 2009 – when his Airbus A320 struck a flock of birds, disabling both engines and creating an emergency situation that required landing the crippled airplane in the freezing waters of the Hudson River. Amazingly, there were no fatalities.

“I served in the Air Force, but I never saw combat,” he said. “I always wondered if I’d be able to rise to the occasion should I ever be placed in an emergency situation.”

He gave credit to the preparedness training both he and his crew had received over a lifetime for “The Miracle on the Hudson.” He spoke of having to force himself to be calm, to compartmentalize all his training and experience and to focus on the task at hand – all while depending on and trusting his team in an extreme situation.

“Jeff Skiles was my co-pilot, but he is more than that. He is a fully qualified pilot,” Sullenberger said. “One of the things he did was start to automatically call out altitude and air speed. He assisted me in raising the nose for the landing. Our flight attendants, Donna, Doreen and Sheila had little time to prepare everyone, but they did so. Patrick Carton, the air traffic controller, kept giving me the information I needed as I needed it.”

After landing the crippled aircraft, both Sullenberger and Skiles turned to each other and said, “Well, that wasn’t as bad as I’d thought.”

Another key to survival was the immediate action of “first responders” in New York and New Jersey.

“Since 9/11, these groups had practiced many different scenarios,” Sullenberger said. “Many of the emergency responding agencies had already conducted drills. In three minutes and 55 seconds, the first boat arrived.”

Sacramento Ready is a sustained preparedness campaign that will guide residents to become prepared before, during and after an emergency or disaster.

“In Sacramento, there is a sense of civic duty,” Sullenberger said. “I commend you for that. None of us know what tomorrow may bring. Avoid complacency. I never knew what two minutes, 28 seconds of my career might change everything. Each of us has that responsibility to remain vigilant.”

“Sacramento is the second most ‘at-risk’ community behind New Orleans,” Johnson said. “With Sacramento Ready, we have a chance to really set ourselves apart. If we don’t do our part (to become prepared for an emergency), we won’t step up when the situation arises.”

For more information about Sacramento Ready, visit www.volunteersac.com.

Sacramento to be awarded Daniel Rose Fellowship from Urban Land Institute

SACRAMENTO –Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will accept the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) prestigious Daniel Rose Fellowship on Oct. 28.

Awarded to only four cities nationwide, the fellowship is a national opportunity for the study of Sacramento’s urban planning initiatives and an opportunity to encourage and support local outstanding sustainable development practices.

In addition to Sacramento, the cities of Charlotte, Houston and Detroit were selected for the Rose Fellowship.

The presentation will be made as part of the ULI Sacramento’s local event that explores the future Sacramento’s downtown. Entitled “Nucleus of the Region: Ideas and Prospects for Sacramento’s Urban Core,” the event will focus on strategies for the rebirth of a new central district in the heart of downtown and will include a moderated discussion with a compelling group of public and private sector decision makers reshaping the “JKL” Streets Corridor.

Innovative winter shelter plan announced

 

Sacramento Steps Forward (SSF) released details on its Winter Shelter plan for 2010–2011 on Oct. 25.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson / Valley Community Newspapers file photo, Stephen Crowley

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson / Valley Community Newspapers file photo, Stephen Crowley

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and County Board of Supervisors Chair Roger Dickinson joined a host of faith, community and government leaders to discuss key elements of the plan at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in midtown Sacramento.

From Nov. 22 to March 1, a total of 320 shelter beds will be available on any given night. The increased number of families served comes despite major cuts in funding. In 2008, $1.2 million in funding served 268 individuals. In 2009, officials created $500,000 for 315 families and children. This year, 320 beds will be available, despite significantly less funding.

“This is an extraordinary example of doing more with less,” explained Mayor Johnson. “Each year, we face bigger and bigger challenges to providing our homeless with emergency shelter during the winter. And yet, we continue to find ways to maintain and expand our services. I’m inspired by our community’s resilience and creativity.”

A total of $250,000 in public funding will be available. Sacramento County has identified $150,000 in one-time funding to contract with Volunteers of America and the Sacramento Area Emergency Housing Center (SAEHC). Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA) also plans

 

 to contract with SAEHC to provide motel vouchers for families and the most vulnerable homeless individuals. Motel vouchers will be funded with Community Development Block Grant funds.

“While we can’t do as much as we’d like, we are committed to assisting homeless children and families to the maximum extent possible,” said Supervisor Dickinson. “We will do everything we can to serve the basic needs of our most vulnerable citizens.”

Both the City Council and County Board will discuss the plan at meetings scheduled for tomorrow.

SSF plans to raise an additional $70,000 through private donations. SSF has submitted several grant applications that are currently pending.

A key innovation this year is the increased role of the faith community. SSF is working with a growing number of congregations to provide nightly shelter for up to 100 single men and women. Under the plan, “host congregations” will provide space for families to sleep. Congregations will also partner with each other and key local nonprofit service providers to coordinate additional services, such as meals, travel and hospitality.

“We have a tremendous community of compassion that’s coming together,” explained Pastor Rick Cole of the Capital Christian Center.

So far, ten congregations from multiple denominations have joined to effort. “It was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” explained Dean Brian Baker of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. SSF plans to recruit twenty in total.

“One of the principles that guides me as a Muslim is ‘love others as you love yourself,’” explained Imam Muhammad Abul Azeez of the SALAM Islamic Center. “I’m personally grateful for the chance to walk the walk.”

Sacramento Steps Forward is a homelessness initiative launched by Mayor Kevin Johnson in November 2009. SSF’s Policy Board includes business and faith community leaders, foundations, service providers, homeless and community representatives, and law enforcement and elected officials from around the city and region.

For more information, and to donate to this effort, visit www.sacramentostepsforward.com.