The imposing front doors to the former Bethany Presbyterian Church in Silver Lake are locked shut, the entryway is strewn with trash and shards of broken terracotta roof tiles litter an overgrown garden. A man sleeps alongside of the building, which is topped by a rusting white cross. The church, which neighbors say has not been used on a regular basis for several years, has definitely seen better days since parishioners gathered 80 years ago to lay the cornerstone for the $75,000 Romanesque-style church and Sunday school at the corner of Griffith Park Boulevard and Lucile Street. The church, however, may once again serve as a sanctuary – not for the faithful but for tourists and travelers wanting to bed down in Silver Lake style. The leader of this church revival is Silver Lake resident Dana Hollister, who has renovated many other neglected neighborhood buildings and helped open popular restaurants and bars, including Cliff’s Edge and the 4100 Bar.
Hollister is now taking on perhaps her most ambitious project, turning Bethany Presbyterian into a boutique hotel with 20 rooms and a “food component” or restaurant. “I want to do something that is conservative and appropriate,” she said.
The current owners of the building, which most recently served as the home for the Pilgrim Church and a Korean congregation, approached her about taking it over, she said. The project is still in the very early stages as Hollister reviews the potential costs, profit and zoning issues associated with building and operating a hotel and restaurant out of an old church. The property does have room for off-street parking – always an issue when a new business opens up – but Hollister said the conversion would still require special city approval and public hearings.
Pilgrim Church’s Korean congregation has not used the building on a regular basis for several years, said one neighbor who complained about the building’s blighted condition. The church served for decades as the hub of an active Presbyterian congregation. In the mid 1960s, the East-West Players, an Asian-American theater company, established its headquarters at the church and staged performances at the site, according to L.A. Times articles. In 1980, the church’s once dominant Anglo congregation merged with a fast growing Korean congregation to create the Bethany United Presbyterian Church.