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St. James Church (No. 139 California Historical Landmark)

Historic Site or District
The "Red Church" of Sonora. The oldest Episcopalian church in California is now a member of the Anglican Diocese. – Website of the Red Church

California Historical Landmarks Program

Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region

2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California

3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder

California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks.

In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.

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St. James Church built in 1859 is considered the oldest Episcopal Church building in California, although no longer affiliated with the Episcopal Church. The “Red Church” became an active parish of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin in 2007. The first services were held on October 4, 1859. St. James Church is also recognized as the seventh oldest Episcopal parish in the state.

As explained on the Red Church website, its eight-sided steeple is an example of the Swedish architectural style. The red painted board and batten exterior walls are made from California redwood. In 1868 a part of the church had to be rebuilt after a fire destroyed the steeple and the west side of the building.

The Red Church is located at the intersection of N Washington (State Hwy 49) and Elkin Sts in Sonora.

Tuolumne County

A treasure of natural wonders and lively gold rush history, Tuolumne County offers visitors vivid scenery. A portion of Yosemite National Park lies within the county, along with giant redwood groves and impressive geological features. Both Bret Harte and Mark Twain wrote stories set in this area during the Gold Rush.

Time Period Represented

1859 to current

Nearby Places