Los Angeles Peoples Temple May Become Historical Site

Photos by Lela Howard

The former Peoples Temple church in Los Angeles – at 1336 South Alvarado Street, on the corner of Alvarado and Hoover – is still standing. It’s now a Seventh-Day Adventist church, but the building looks the same on the outside. And the inside is a real Peoples Temple time capsule. Even the chairs – the burgundy velvet wooden chairs – that Jim Jones and his “associate pastors” used to sit on are still there.

The apartment building next door – where many Temple members lived – is the same as well, although I believe it’s no longer affiliated with any church. I remember the black iron gate and remembered exactly where the buses were parked the last time I saw my Aunt Pearl before she emigrated to Guyana.

The structure is already a city historical landmark, as these documents show, but I believe it should be a permanent fixture of Los Angeles culture, and the only way to truly guarantee that is to have it turned into a State Historical Site. That requires approval from the owners – in this case the Southern California Association of Seventh Day Adventists, which purchased the property January 31, 1978 for $378,000 – but they are hesitant, because “it will bring the property value down.” The current market value for the property is $148,264, with nearly $69,000 in assessed improved value.

On the plus side, if California designates it a historical site, the state would also ensure the property receives the necessary improvements.

I am in the process of working with the city to negotiate with the owners. Officials with the City Council have explained that the owners’ reluctance could be overcome, but in lieu of a lengthy process, they have suggested passage of a “resolution” which would contain the address. This was agreeable with me, because all I want is recognition. The process is not complete, though, and I encourage any readers of this report who care to join me in my efforts to contact me.

(Lela Howard is a regular contributor to the jonestown report. Her other articles in this edition are An Invitation to “Speaking Their Names” and “No” Is Not an Option. Her complete collection of writings for the site may be found here. She can be reached at lelavhoward@gmail.com.)