The official name is Our Lady of Solitude Church. It’s even more official sounding in Spanish: Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de La Soledad. But, as an Eastsider who attended services there as a child, this East Los Angeles church was simply known as La Soledad. Last week, workers were patching and painting the exterior of La Soledad near the corner of Cesar Chavez and McDonnell avenues as part of some improvements scheduled to be completed by Easter, said Pastor Benito Rojas. But anyone with any memories of the church, which opened in December 1925, knows that no matter how much paint is slapped on the exterior, La Soledad will never be the same until its soaring bell tower and tiled-covered cupola is rebuilt.
It has been sometime since the tower was demolished and the bells removed, according to some church employees. I myself can’t remember the last time I heard the bells ring. The silent bells, meanwhile, sit down near sidewalk behind a cage under a sign that reads La Plaza Soledad. Except for a 1944 painting (pictured at left above) by Einar C. Peterson in the rectory lobby and a faded photo kept out of sight, there is little to remind folks of the graceful tower that was once visible for for blocks around. Pastor Rojas said he does get asked by longtime parishioners if the bells and a cupola will ever once again rise above the church. “A lot of people remember the cupola,” Rojas said in Spanish. He said restoring the bell tower is not out of the question. All it will take is “mucho dinero.” A lot of prayer will also help.