Sunday, September 22, 2013

Church of Reflections, Knott's Berry Farm

I doubt that there are many other amusement parks with real churches (actually used for Sunday services) on their grounds. But that was how Water Knott rolled! Chris Merritt's "Knott's Preserved" tells us that Walter originally wanted to relocate the building that had been the First Baptist church of Downy (built in about 1879), but building codes forced him to recreate the structure, saving the original steeple.

The photo below is circa 1955, when the church was brand-new to the park. It almost looks like a very convincing movie set; the little family passing by is the perfect touch.

Here's another photo, taken in 1967. The church itself hasn't changed, though the landscaping around it has. Some shrubs have been added, and simple wooden benches so that guests can contemplate the mysteries of the universe in comfort. 

And (also from '67) here is a rare shot showing the interior with its stained-glass window. I assume that the window was designed by Paul Van Klieben, who also worked on the portrait seen in the Little Chapel by the Lake. That's right, Knott's had a church and a chapel! Both are gone now.


Nanook said...

It certainly was a different world (and some would say much better) when folks such as Walter Knott & Walt Disney could both create and execute visions for amusement/theme parks that had such strong personalities, and as a result, produced two wonderful places for family fun that were unmatched anywhere.

One of my favorite ads for Knott's included a great line, rarely topped in advertising: Minutes from Disneyland - world's apart. (Now, let us pray).

Thanks, Major.

stu29573 said...

Both is the soul of Knotts...

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, both parks really did reflect the values and interests of their creators, making them seem less sterile and "created in a board room".

stu29573, it really does seem as if the death of Walter Knott caused major changes in the way the park was run. Who knows, maybe the changes were necessary for a new generation that needed roller-coaster thrills.

K. Martinez said...

Church of Reflections was a cool looking building. I didn’t realize it was gone.

Walter Knott remained active in the operation of Knott's Berry Farm until his wife's death in 1974. A year later Knott’s first roller coaster thrill, the "Corkscrew" opened. Shortly after that, "Parachute Sky Jump" and "Montezooma's Revenge" were added. That definitely seemed to be a changing point for the Farm.

As for Walt Disney, who's to say if he lived longer that he would've been able to guide his company into the future with a rapidly changing business environment? Would he have even been able to pull off his original vision of EPCOT? It’s hard to say, but the world has changed since his passing, and so the company should with it.

If I have any criticism of Disneyland today, it's that the original park has become somewhat stagnant. It really feels like visiting a park from the past. I think it needs some new ideas. At least in DCA when walking through Buena Vista Street and Cars Land, it reminds me of what Disneyland Park used to feel like; new, exciting and full of wonder.

Nice classic shots today. Thanks, Major!

Irene said...

The church was moved across the street near Liberty Hall (I think that's what it's called). Open on Sundays and for weddings and such. Not open on a daily basis though like it used to be when it was in the Park itself.

Melissa said...

It looks almost identical to one of the churches I went to growing up - kids running out after sitting still for hours and everything!

Looks like they've moved it to the hotel grounds as a wedding chapel. The price looks more reasonable than a Disneyland wedding, but it seems like having Charlie Brown at your nuptuals would be kind of a jinx. As would "White Silk Alter Flowers."

When I first read "Paul Van Klieben," I was thinking of Bernard Kliban, and I was expecting a stained-glass window full of tabby cats.

I'm not a typical parkgoer, I don't think, but I know I appreciate the elements of history that both Disney and other parks are able to work in - not just history in general (Frontierland, Calico Mine Train, etc.), but the history of the parks themselves. It's certainly a fine line to walk, and you can play competing quotes from Walt on the subject.

K. Martinez said...

@Irene - Thanks for the new info on the Church of Reflections. I'll definitely check it out next visit when visiting Knott's Independence Hall.

Major Pepperidge said...

K. Martinez, it is intriguing to speculate about the future of both Knott's and Disneyland (and WDW), had Walter Knott and Walt Disney lived for another 10 or 15 years. Would they have lost their golden touch? It seems hard to believe, but tastes change and the public can be fickle. Your criticism of Disneyland is an interesting one, I've never heard it before! Having a park full of new experiences would be neat, but man, I sure would hate to see so many of my favorites removed - especially since the track record for ride replacements has not been stellar. Rocket Rods, anyone?

Irene, thank you for the info! I've even been over to Liberty Hall, I must have been right near the church and just didn't realize that it was the old one in a new location.

Melissa, we sure didn't have any churches that looked like that one where I lived (and I moved a lot)! I want lucy to hold the ring on a little pillow, and when the groom reaches for it she pulls it away. I agree, the history is a huge part of the appeal for me personally. Obviously there are others who feel differently, and that's OK.

K. Martinez said...

It's not that I'm advocating ripping out classic attractions at the park, but nothing truly new has been added to the park since Indiana Jones Adventure and that was over 18 years ago. That's way too long to go without a major new addition. It seems that all they do now is update and refresh old attractions and not much more. It's like Disneyland is trying to live off its past glories. It needs a combination of both old and new experiences to give it freshness while retaining a bit of nostalgia.

Melissa said...

I've been wondering if the lack of maintenance on the exterior of the Alice in Wonderland attraction and so much of Tomorrowland is to prepare guests for removal and not have them feel so bad when it happens - the old "Horizons Maneuver" they pulled at EPCOT around the turn of the century. Let it turn into an eyesore and fewer people will complain when it's gone.

I've been looking at pictures of that childhood church of mine and memory is a funny thing. The steeple and entryway are off to the right instead of being dead center. like the Knott's church Everything else is still pretty much the same, though. Same shade of carpet on the floor and everything.

Love the idea of ringbearer Lucy. She can also provide premarital counseling for 5 cents in the back of the church which Schroeder plays the wedding march on a tiny toy organ.

Unknown said...

I attended the church at knotts berry farm as a child with my family.I think the pastor was pastor heath. We had our Sunday school classes in the covered wagons nearby. I'm so sad to hear that it's no longer there. When the park started charging admission, we had special passes to get in free and attend church. I remember that there was a restaurant that was known for it's fried chicken and pies. Very busy place