Calvary Baptist Church

Known As
American Colonial Revival
Bussard and Bussard
1502 20th Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404

Calvary Baptist Church, located in a monumental American Colonial Revival sanctuary at the corner of 20th and Broadway, celebrated its centennial in August 2020. Its growth from small beginnings reflects the strength and dedication of its members, and their increasing impact upon Santa Monica.

The Conservancy honored the church with a special certificate, recognizing their 100 years of service to the community, enriching the lives of its members and providing leadership to the Santa Monica Civil Rights movement.

Launched at a meeting in a private home on August 3, 1920 at 17th Street and Broadway, the following week the inaugural congregation rented space at the Seventh Day Adventist Church at 1531 6th Street. Through lots of hard work in fundraising, its members succeeded in purchasing this property. However, damage from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake made the structure unsafe, leading to another location search.

After renting space at 20th Street and Olympic Boulevard, the members put a down payment on the old two-story Humphreyโ€™s Hall at 20th Street and Delaware Avenue. Services were held downstairs until the upstairs became vacant; the church then moved upstairs and rented the downstairs space for commercial uses.ย  The property was paid off in 1941.

In 1939, Reverend Welford P. Carter became pastor. Under his leadership, in 1942 the congregation purchased seven lots at the corner of 20th Street and Broadway. Through vigorous fundraising, mainly through church dinners, the congregation was able to liquidate their debt in 1945.ย  When the church was erected in 1947, the congregation numbered 1200.ย  The Christian Education Center, added in 1954, was named for Reverend Carter, whose vision and leadership inspired the congregation.

Reverend Carter rose to become a highly respected and influential Black leader in the city, until his death in 1965.ย  His wife, Blanche was also a community leader; she became the first Black school board president in Santa Monica. They, together with other congregation members, fought for civil rights and desegregation in housing and employment. In the 1960s and โ€˜70s, the church held many rallies for social justice, labor rights and desegregation.

Another prominent church leader, Nat Trives, joined the police department in order to change discrimination policies and became head of the Police Officers Association. Denied the post of police chief, he became a City Councilman and Mayor. As Mayor from 1975-1976, Trives made sure that every city commission had a person of color appointed. His many outstanding civic activities for decades have earned him the appellation of โ€œMr. Santa Monica.โ€

The construction of the Santa Monica Freeway in the 1960s destroyed many Black residences and commercial businesses in its path, scattering members of the congregation throughout the region.ย  However, Calvary Baptist Church continues to be a focal point for the Black community in Santa Monica and beyond. From modest beginnings, their growth and many accomplishments continue to inspire people today.