Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Church of Reflections, Knott's Berry Farm

The Church of Reflections and revolving Christmas tree at Knott's, late 1950s
Some of you will remember the little historic Church of Reflections (1876), which stood in the middle of Knott's Berry Farm, near Reflection Lake, the "Original" Berry Stand, and other charming but low-key attractions. It was moved across the street, near Independence Hall in 2003. Here's a brief timeline of the amazing history of this little church:
  • 1876 – The church was built as First Baptist Church of Downey and was located at Second and Church Streets in Downey. It was built of redwood.
  • 1891 – A baptistry was added to the church.
  • 1922 – The building was purchased by St. Marks’ Episcopal Church and moved to Fifth St. “across from the fields”
  • 1953 – The church was vacated and would remain unused for a couple years.
  • 1955 – Early in the year, the church was condemned to make way for the expansion of Downey Community Hospital.
  • 1955 Sept – Knott’s Berry Farm purchased the church building, along with its 1911 Estey organ and 1900 Belgian stained glass windows. Walter Knott just wanted to move the building to the Berry Farm, but building codes wouldn’t allow it. So the steeple, windows, fixtures, and perhaps a few other elements of the building were moved to Knott’s and the rest was rebuilt with new materials.
  • 1955 Oct 2 – The first service was held in relocated church. The church was initially used by a Lutheran congregation, with a Rev. Foster officiating. The new name, “Church of Reflections” was announced.
  • 1958 Nov – A neon cross was added to roof. Knott’s employees purchased a new stained glass window as an anniversary present for Walter and Cordelia Knott, which was placed behind the altar. The first wedding is held at the new location.
  • 1976 Jan – The building was plaqued by Native Daughters of the Golden West
  • 1979 Aug – Longtime pastor Rev. Claude Bunzel retired and the schedule of church services became more limited.
  • 2003 Oct – The church was removed to make way for a new roller coaster. The steeple, stained glass windows and pews are moved to a site across Beach Blvd. and became part of an otherwise new (but similar) church building. The final service beside the lake was held on Oct. 5th. Services later resumed at the new location, near Independence Hall.
  • 2016 -- Meetings between Buena Park City officials, local church leaders, historians, Knott's Berry Farm and the Knott family are held to try to locate yet another new site to which the church building might be moved. Knott's plans called for the current site being used differently. Some of the likeliest options for a new site seemed to be existing churches in Buena Park. (As part of those meetings, this was when I dug up the information above.) The church closed at this time.
  • 2018 -- The nonprofit Church of Reflections Preservation Foundation was formed to raise money to move the church  a mile southwest to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.
  • 2020 May -- Knott's announces that the move was planned for September 2020.


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for posting this history of the lovely church. I have attended services there many years ago and it was always part of Knott's Berry Farm experience for me.

Connie Moreno said...

Great post. Somewhere I have a couple of pics taken in the 70's of this church. I always felt it was an odd place for a church and yet, every time I went to the Park, I made sure to go see it.

Chris Jepsen said...

Connie! Glad to see you're still interested in this stuff! You don't comment as often as you used to, but then I don't POST as often as I used to. So we're even! Hope all is well with you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. I was about nine years old when my family moved to Orange County. I remember the church very well, by the reflecting pool/ We would visit Knox berry farm frequently, beginning shortly after arriving. The admission was free back then. What a warm memory. Thanks again


Unknown said...

I too have fond memories, ,,my elementary school used to go to knotts for field trips and we always stopped there to watch the Illumination. Is there a way to get to the chapel?

Anonymous said...

When my family and I went and still go I always stop by and say what a off place to put a church but it is so beautiful. When I was looking for a place to get married it had popped up on a ad saying it was across the street I always thought it was gone.
Long story short 2 years ago this past Halloween my husband and I got married in that little church.It is very beautiful inside so this was a nice to see a bit more history about it since it is a part of my new life. THANK YOU FOR SHARING.

Anonymous said...

From approximately 1960 +/- to 1964, the Reverend Edward W. Greenfield was the pastor of the church.

Augustgal said...

Is this still active? I am looking for the glow in the dark pamphlet from the church of reflection

Unknown said...

That was the little chapel by the lake. Dont know where the chapel ended up.