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Oakland Historic Landmark Rededicated Sunday

The First Unitarian Church of Oakland is one of the oldest and most storied buildings in the East Bay. Built in 1891, it just underwent an $8.1 million retrofit and renovation and the community will celebrate Sunday, Jan. 24th at 3pm. This historic church is a California state landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It's so old that its steeple was used as the model for UC Berkeley's famous Campanile.

It features incredible redwood arches and stained glass windows, and has been the site of many important events, most recently the memorial service for KPFA's Andrea Lewis. This Sunday, January 24, they are holding a rededication ceremony to officially reopen their sanctuary after the renovation work was completed late last year. It's at 3pm at the church, which is at 14th and Castro Streets -- right next to the 980 freeway -- in downtown Oakland.

There will be speeches, a performance by Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir -- which was founded at the church -- and the return of long-time First Unitarian ministers Rob and Janne Eller-Isaacs, who started the renovation project but moved to another church in the interim.

More information: http://www.uuoakland.org/about/our_historic_building/

The announcement:
First Unitarian Church of Oakland will rededicate its historic 119-year-old sanctuary on January 24, 2010 at 3 pm, capping a $2 million renovation and earthquake retrofit with musical performances, guest speakers and a formal rededication ceremony.

The 400-member church raised $2 million in private funds to seismically upgrade and renovate the previously unreinforced masonry landmark. Located at the corner of 14th and Castro streets in downtown Oakland, the church is California Historic Landmark #896 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NPS-77000284).

The church was built in 1891 and designed by Oakland City Architect Walter J. Matthews in the “Richardsonian Romanesque” style of architecture, a radical departure in its time from wood frame church construction. The church is noted for its world-famous stained glass windows and for its arching redwood spans, made from first-growth California Redwood harvested in Berkeley and Oakland. The church’s steeple, which can be seen from the Interstate 980 Freeway in downtown Oakland, was the model for UC Berkeley’s Sather Tower (the Campanile).

The retrofit and renovation included steel-beam reinforcement of the redwood arches and the floor, replacing and upgrading the roof, updating the lighting and sound systems, and making the interior fully wheelchair-accessible.

The rededication ceremony will include a formal “key ceremony” in which the church receives the keys to the building back from the construction workers, as well as the presentation of a City of Oakland Proclamation. The event will also include a slide show and description of the retrofit and renovation work that was done to save this architectural landmark.

The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir (which was founded at First Unitarian) and the Oakland Youth Chorus will perform. Speakers will include Revs. Rob and Janne Eller-Isaacs (past ministers at First Unitarian), Rev. Ronald Edward Swisher of Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church, and Swami Prabuddhananda Saraswati of the Vedanta Society of Northern California.

“First Unitarian Church has a rich history and remains a vibrant home of beloved community, liberal religious thought and social activism,” said Rev. Kathy Huff, senior minister of First Unitarian. “We feel so blessed to have secured our landmark sanctuary, a source of comfort and strength to generations of people going back more than a century that will now be here for generations to come in this new century.”

First Unitarian Church of Oakland is an intentionally multiracial, multicultural, multigenerational congregation of more than 400 children, men, women and transgender people. The churches welcomes – and counts among its members – people of all ages, sexual orientations, races, gender identities, classes, dis/abilities, theologies and religious heritages.

For much more information about the past, present and future of the congregation and the First Unitarian Church of Oakland building, visit www.uuoakland.org.
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