Christian Science was discovered by Mary Baker Eddy in 1866. October 24, 1900, was the occasion of the laying of the cornerstone for First Church of Christ, Scientist, Riverside. Notice of completion of the construction of the building was filed February 10, 1901. The dedication and first regular Sunday service were held on February 24 of that year.
Christian Science had actually been publicly introduced in Riverside some nine years previous, and the Christian Science Journal for October 1891 has listed: “Regular Sunday Services of Scientists.” They met in the home of Emma Stanton Davis, a student of Mrs. Eddy, who had moved to Riverside in 1887 and began healing work. Records in the Archives of the Mother Church in Boston, Massachusetts, show that Riverside was the first location in California where a class-taught student lived.
Later, other locations for church services were the YMCA Hall, the Odd Fellows Hall, and the Universalist Church — the beautiful, still-standing adobe building at the corner of Lemon Street and Mission Inn Blvd., one block from our church. The new edifice was welcomed indeed!
Newspaper accounts indicate that people from many parts of the Inland Empire attended the first regularly scheduled service in 1901. The Christian Science Journal in May of that year, included this commendation: “Our friends of California are to be congratulated upon the erection of this beautiful temple in that wonderful state which is blessed with so many material advantages and in which spiritual Truth is rapidly gaining prominent and substantial footing. The growth of Christian Science has been rapid and healthful in a marked degree.”
The architectural style of this church is primarily Mission Revival due to the influence of the renowned architect, Arthur Benton. Just one block from the church is Benton’s Mission Inn, which is internationally known. He also designed the Riverside Municipal Auditorium which borders on the south end of the church property.
The interior of the church was designed in the craftsman tradition with natural or lightly stained wood, with vertical and horizontal beams exposed. In the 1950s, all wood and ceiling rafters were covered and painted white with a blue decoration. This reflects a more classical tradition which may have been preferred by the congregation. The two stained glass windows on each side of the Readers’ Platform were purchased with contributions from the Sunday School children.
Adjoining the church property, to the east, was an apartment building which the church purchased in 1923. This was used for a period of years for Sunday School services. In 1955 this structure was razed and a beautiful new Sunday School building was designed to conform with the church building .
In 1964 the stained glass windows on the wall above the Readers’ Platform were moved to the Sunday School, where they remain today. The inscription, "Children’s Offering," reminds us of the children’s contribution.
The space behind the Readers’ Platform in the earlier photographs was used as a choir loft. In 1913 the church purchased a pipe organ from the Murray A. Harris Company of Los Angeles. The console was placed to the right of the platform, where it still stands, and the old choir loft became the chamber for the organ pipes.
Although First Church of Christ, Scientist, Riverside, was not the first Christian Science edifice to be built in California — the first was two months earlier in Santa Monica — the congregation was the first in southern California. The success of the healing by Emma Stanton Davis created a following of prominent Riverside citizens who became members of this first congregation.