Our Unique History
Founded as the All Souls Universalist Church in 1881, our little red sandstone building is listed as Riverside City Landmark #3 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
The Cornerstone of Riverside
On Sunday evening February 20, 1881, the Rev. James Harvey Tuttle, a Universalist minister from Minneapolis, MN, preached a sermon in Public Hall. He had been brought to Riverside by wagon from Los Angeles by William Charles Finch, one of his former parishioners. Mr. Tuttles’ sermon was enthusiastically received and gave Universalists in the community an opportunity to recognize each other as such. As a result, Mr. Tuttle returned to Minneapolis with the charge to find a Universalist minister to come to Riverside on a mission to establish a church.
In anticipation of the event, the women formed the “Universalist Working Society” on March 17, 1881, for the purpose of raising funds. The Rev. George Deere and his wife Louisa arrived in July. Following the third service, August 7, 1881, the first Universalist Parish in the southwestern United States was organized. In 1882 the Parish purchased Riverside’s first schoolhouse, built in 1871, for $300 and moved it to a lot donated by S. C. Evans at the southeast corner of Seventh (now Mission Inn Avenue) and Market Streets. The structure was remodeled and dedicated as a chapel on April 29, 1883. At a business meeting on April 18, 1889, the church was formally named All Souls Church of Riverside, California. Construction of the present building began in 1891. The combined auditorium and parish hall were completed at a cost of nearly $25,000 and dedicated on June 9, 1892. It was a monument to George Deere who was the strength and inspiration for the new building. The style of the building is a mixture of Norman and English Gothic architecture designed by A. C. Willard and constructed by A. W. Boggs. The walls are made of brick with a facing of Permian age Supai red sandstone quarried in Flagstaff, Arizona. The floor of the interior vestibule in the tower is made of marble quarried in Colton, California.
The stained glass windows were made by the Sebiling Wells Glass Company of Chicago and memorialize George Deere, Albert S. White, William Finch, the LaRue family, Hall family, Shugart and Waite families, and Joseph S. Dennis. These were prominent citizens in the city of Riverside and the most important people concerned with planning, financing, and construction of the church building.
An addition, which included a kitchen, restrooms and upstairs minister’s study, was built in 1924. The outside wall of the apse can be seen under the skylight. The parsonage, adjacent to the church, was constructed in 1905. It was a light and airy house with one innovative feature: on the second floor was a screened-in porch for sleeping. This building is presently referred to as the “Annex” and accommodates church offices and religious education activities for the children.
All Souls Becomes Unitarian
In 1938, after the Unitarian church in Redlands closed, All Souls joined the American Unitarian Association, the first to do so on the Pacific Coast and twenty-three years before the two liberal churches merged nationally in 1961. In 1957 the church reincorporated as the Universalist Unitarian Church of Riverside (UUCR). The Riverside church places Universalist before Unitarian in recognition of its origin. That “elegant little stone church,” as it was referred to by historian E. W. Holmes, was declared Riverside Cultural Heritage Landmark No. 3 in 1969 and officially so designated in 1973. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites in 1978. Major seismic strengthening and restoration of the building were completed in 1988. Rededication of the building took place on April 10, 1988. The present congregation is very proud of our beautiful little church and hopes our visitors enjoy it as much as we do.