The first inhabitants of this area were Native Americans. They lived in small villages of less than 100 people each, and subsisted on a diet of fish, small game and acorns. A common term for the natives of this area is the Gabrielenos, derived from the Spanish Mission San Gabriel. A more fitting name is the Tongva, a Native American word.
The first European settlers to the greater Los Angeles area were the Spanish. In order to establish a Spanish presence in Alta, or southern, California and reward service to the crown, massive land grants were awarded in the 1780s. One of these was given to a soldier named Juan Jose Dominguez. In 1784 he was granted over 75,000 acres, designated the Rancho San Pedro. This is the area we now know as the South Bay, and included the modern day city of Redondo Beach. His nephew, Jose Cristobal Dominguez, eventually retained title to the grant. Cristobal and his wife, Maria de Los Reyes, had ten children. Their eldest son and the executor of the will, known as Manuel, subsequently became the principal figure in the Rancho.
After the death of Manuel Dominguez and his wife, Maria Engracia, their land holdings were split between six daughters. Three of the sisters, Susana, Guadalupe, and Maria de Los Reyes Dominguez, inherited portions of the estate, each including individual sections collectively known as the Ocean Tract. In 1889 this coastal tract was sold to the Redondo Beach Improvement Company, founded by Robert Thompson and John Ainsworth. They promoted, developed, and sold land that eventually became the nucleus of the city of Redondo Beach, incorporated in 1892. The name of the city is Spanish for "round," which refers to the half-round street pattern of the original townsite.
One of Manuel Dominguez's heirs, daughter Susana, held the first organized Catholic services in Redondo Beach. Maria Susana Delfina Dominguez was born June 5, 1844, and married Dr. Gregorio del Amo y Gonzalez on February 15, 1890. After living in Los Angeles for a short time, they moved to 618 Esplanade, Redondo Beach, where they lived until 1906. It was in this home that a group of Catholics met in the parlor for prayers and Sunday Mass. A visiting priest from St. Vibiana's in Los Angeles would arrive to say Mass.
Dominquez Memorial Chapel
As the faithful grew in numbers, it became apparent that the parlor could not continue to serve as the church. The Dominguez children donated the land and the finances for the construction of a church to be built in memory of their parents. A committee was formed to plan the new church. The patron St. James was chosen.
The architects for the Dominguez Memorial Chapel were Messrs. Edelman and Riccard of Los Angeles, and the contractors were Hartnoll and Cole of Redondo Beach. The chapel was built on an 80 x 100 foot lot and was approached from the west with stairs mounting to heavy oak doors. There were eighteen pews to seat the parishioners. Inside to the right was a staircase leading to the organ gallery, which could accommodate a full choir. Two bell turrets highlighted the western exterior; one of the bells, dated 1892, is currently hanging outside the western side of St. James Church. It was cast by W. T. Garratt & Co., San Francisco, and weighs 500 pounds. Prominently placed in the chapel were statutes, made in Spain, of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph.
Windows on the north and south side of the church memorialized the six Dominguez daughters. A stained glass window in memory of their parents, Manuel and Maria Engracia Dominguez, was positioned in the rear of the chapel. A 22' high ceiling, which added to the beauty, was made of oak.
Attending the dedication were the Carsons (George and Maria Victoria, a daughter of Manuel Dominguez), the del Amos, the Watsons (James and Dolores, another daughter of Manuel), Bishop Mora, Father Joachim Adam, president of St. Vincent's College, and the parishioners of the parish, which stretched from Santa Monica to the Palos Verde Peninsula.
The Bishop granted the petition for a resident pastor by sending Father Forthiar, the first pastor of St. James. He served the needs of the people until 1906, when Father Ferrer was assigned. By 1910, the congregation had grown and additional seats were installed in the chapel and a new pastor, Father O'Callaghan, arrived. But it was apparent that a new, larger church was needed, so planning and fund raising began. The population of the city had increased to almost 3,000 citizens, with fifty families registered in the parish. During the building program, Father O'Callaghan was transferred and it fell to Right Reverend Msgr. Nicholas Conneally to complete the new church.
St. James (the Greater) Church
The cornerstone of the new church was laid July 5, 1914, by Reverend Patrick Harnett, Vicar General of the Diocese of Los Angeles. Bishop Thomas James Conaty dedicated St. James Church on November 29, 1914. The architect for the church and rectory was Frank Kegley, and the contractors were parishioners, John Lechner & Sons. Father James O'Callaghan was pastor during the building of the Gothic style church, which cost approximately $30,000. Pews that seated 400 were complemented by the choir section, which allowed for an additional 60 people. The one story church measured 40 x 106 feet. It was made of red brick and had a tile roof. The interior furnishings were golden oak with pine flooring, and the altar was finished in gold and white. The tower was 81 feet high, topped with a 10 foot cross. The bell and statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph were removed from the Dominguez Chapel and placed in the new church.
Father James Deenihan became the next pastor in 1918, followed by Father Thomas King, who took over in 1928. Father King was succeeded by Reverend William Stewart in 1930.
Reverend Msgr. George Donahoe assumed the pastorship in 1935. A parish auditorium, constructed of frame and stucco and costing $11,000, was built in 1937 under his direction. It is located on the northeast corner of Vincent Street and Broadway, and is in use today. Many card parties were held as fundraisers, and the Knights of Columbus permitted many activities to take place in their hall, located on part of what is now the Parish Center. While Msgr. Donahoe was in charge a noteworthy event took place. On October 25, 1936, Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, the Papal Secretary of State, celebrated Mass at St. James; he later became Pope Pius XII.
Father William Forde followed Msgr. Donahoe as pastor. During Father Forde's tenure (1943 - 1952), the hall and the church's interior were completely renovated. The church organ, installed circa 1951, was said to be one of the finest in the area.
During the early 1950s, the parish population had grown so much that a larger church was considered. During this time, St. James' boundaries were divided into two parishes, and Msgr. Daniel Collins, pastor 1952- 1954, left St. James to found the new Redondo Beach parish of St. Lawrence Martyr in 1955. A mission church in Hermosa Beach, established when Father Deenihan was pastor, was reclassified and became our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in 1958.
St. James Church
The Catholic population in 1957 was 1500 families. Father Morris began preparations to build a larger church, but, sadly, died before his work was completed. Within a few months, during which time Father Hill served as administrator, Father O'Gorman was appointed as pastor and he continued preparations for the building of the new church. The priests moved into a house on Vincent Street and demolition of the old buildings began. During the building of the new church, the hall became the temporary chapel.
Contemporary in style and capable of seating 1200, the current church is 168 feet long and 92 feet wide. The tower is affixed with a cross and is 88 feet high, with electronic carillons that toll the hours. The floor is slightly sloped to give all worshippers a good view of the altar. The new cornerstone was inscribed with a seashell, and with the message to all people "to continue the praise of God." The cornerstone also contains articles from the 1914 church.
The designs for the stained glass windows were all envisioned by Father O'Gorman. Three of the windows - the Transfiguration, the Calling of the Apostles to be Fishers of Men, and Christ Raising the Daughter of Jairus from the dead - are massive, compelling works of art. Along the sides of the church, above the Stations of the Cross, are the Ten Commandments, also depicted in stained glass. The new church and rectory were completed in 1961. The church was dedicated on June 18, 1961.
In 1977, Father Gerald Walker began thirteen years of leadership of St. James. That same year, the bimonthly newsletter, which had been discontinued, began again.
Father Tim Nichols became pastor of St. James in 1990. During his twelve years, he brought many new and wonderful changes. A parish wide census, requiring many manpower hours, was conducted. The result was a registered parish population of 3000 families. The establishment of a pastoral committee enhanced communication between the church leadership and the parish family. In the church, a new state-of-the-art electronic organ replaced the previous organ and a new sound system was installed. The choir area was improved with a new concert piano and staggered choir seating. In addition, all of the pews were refurbished. The parish offices were taken out of the rectory and moved to the former convent across the street, which was completely renovated for this purpose. Finally, the hall was redecorated inside and out, including updating the kitchen. The modernized kitchen became the focus of an effort to feed the homeless in our area. Currently, lunches are provided by a group of volunteers every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There were also several changes in the school. See below.
In 2002 a new era began - Father Nichols was reassigned and Father Jim Kavanagh was appointed pastor of St. James. He is assisted in his service by Associate Pastors Father Joe Kammerer and Father Brendan Kearney, and Deacons Richard Shinkle and Bob Miller.
Windows - St. James Church (1961)
THE PARISH HALL
The most recent major construction work done in our parish was the renovation of the Parish Hall by Fr. Kavanagh in 2008. The kitchen space was expanded to accommodate a greater number of volunteer workers serving the homeless. It is equipped with all stainless steel counters, service tables and three new refigerators to accomodate the large amount of food needed for the homeless program and the increased number of parish ministries in recent years. A new wood floor, new tables, and a new ceiling with much brighter lighting have enhanced the interior of the hall. A 72" television is avalable for all parish groups with a computer and big screen connection. This hall is essential to helping our St. James Church Community live the corporal works of mercy as preached by Jesus Christ, and to accommodate our coming together to enjoy and share our lives with one another at times such as "Sunday Coffee and Donuts" and the various celebrations during the year.
ST. JAMES PARISH SCHOOL AND CONVENT
Under the direction of Msgr. Conneally, St. James School opened on September 10, 1918. The school tuition in 1923 was $1 a month for those who could afford it. In 1924, Father Deenihan added a second story to the school and had the convent built for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. While Father Forde was pastor (1943 - 1952), the school was completely renovated. In the early 1950's, the brick classroom building was constructed and the convent was enlarged. Due to continued growth, four additional classrooms were added in 1959. In 1961, the parish had a blue chip stamp drive to buy the sisters their first car. It was a light blue Ford station wagon, and the 8th grade boys had to take turns washing it after school.
Father O'Gorman oversaw the establishment of an eight classroom school in Torrance, built as an annex to the Redondo Beach school. Weekly bingo games were initiated in January 1978; they rapidly became a social gathering, and a source of revenue for the school. While the "Annex" (as the new school on Anza was called) was being build, the school had double session classes for two years. Some students went from approximately 8:00 A. M. until noon, and then the rest of the students went from approximately noon until 4:00 P. M. Students were required to do extra homework each night to make up for the shortened school day.
Commencing with the 1990 school year, the Torrance Annex became the location of one school, grades kindergarten through eight. A new parish center, named in honor of Msgr. O'Gorman, was built at the new school site. It consists of three multi-purpose rooms (which can be opened up into one large room), a kitchen, and offices. Later, a two-story addition was added to the school, consisting of three classrooms and a teachers' lounge.
In 1992, the Preschool was opened for children ages 2 ½ to 4 ½ next to the Parish Office. It currently serves some 120 children.
ST. JAMES PASTORS Rev. Raphael Fortier 1892- 1906 Rev. Ramon Ferrer 1906- 1909 Rev. James O'Callaghan 1909 - 1914 Rev. Msgr. Nicholas Conneally 1914 - 1918 Rev. James Deenihan 1918 - 1928 Rev. Thomas King 1928 - 1930 Rev. William Stewart 1930 - 1935 Rev. Msgr. George Donahoe 1935 - 1943 Rev. William Forde 1943 - 1952 Rev. Msgr. Daniel Collins 1952 - 1954 Rev. James Morris 1954 - 1956 (April) Rev. J. Hill (Administrator) 1956 (April - August) Rev. Msgr. J.A. O'Gorman 1956 (August) - 1977 Rev. Gerald Walker 1977 - 1990 Rev. Tim Nichols 1990 - 2002 Rev. Jim Kavanagh 2002 - 2011 * Msgr. Michael Meyers 2011 -
* Fr. Jim is retired but still resides at St. James
Rev. Raphael Fortier
Founding Pastor (1892-1906)
Seven new parishes were created from the original boundaries of St. James:
1910 St. Anthony of Padua - Gardena 1918 St. Augustine - Culver City 1924 Nativity - Torrance 1931 American Martyrs - Manhattan Beach 1947 St. Catherine Laboure - Torrance 1955 St. Lawrence Martyr - Redondo Beach 1958 Our Lady of Guadalupe - Hermosa Beach
To Top of Page / Home