The Early Days
In the late 1800s, when the Gardena Valley area was thinly populate, Masses were held on the estate of former Civil War general William Starke Rosecrans, in his home near what is now the corner of Rosecrans and Vermont avenues. The aging general sometimes served as an altar boy.
The First Church
St. Anthony’s Parish was officially established in 1910 under the first pastor, Fr. William Powers. That year, the parish bought several parcels of land where part of the parish complex stands today. The price: $1,000. Soon afterwards the Rosecrans family offered to pay for the construction of the first St. Anthony’s Church. Designed by Bishop Thomas James Conaty and dedicated by him on December 12, 1912, the small 25′ x 90′ wood-frame structure stood where the nursery school is today.
The Second Church
For a few years beginning in 1918, the parish was treated as a mission church, first of St. Michael’s in Los Angeles and then of St. James Parish in Redondo Beach. But by 1922 it was again considered an independent parish with a resident pastor, as its membership grew to 500 members. To keep up with the expanding congregation, a new church was built at a cost of $30,000 and dedicated by Bishop John J. Cantwell on October 16, 1927. Built in Italian Romanesque style with tile roof, the 40′ x 140′ church could seat 450.
Our Current Church
By 1961, St. Anthony’s had 17,000 parishioners — far too many for the 1927 church building. To accommodate the overflow crowds, additional Sunday Masses were held in the parish auditorium. The urgent need for a new, larger church was clear to everyone. Three pastors were intimately involved with the building of St. Anthony’s current church: Fr. Joseph Hill, Fr. James Hansen, and Fr. Peter McGee. The architects for the new church were the firm of Verge and Clatworthy. With pews arranged in a semi-circular manner around the altar, the church was designed to seat 1,250 and to have near-perfect acoustics. Built of concrete, steel and brick, with no pillars but with a high vaulted ceiling, the building combined traditional and modern architecture in a way that was considered revolutionary at the time — making it the first church of its kind in the Archdiocese.