Northbrae Church History

Northbrae Community Church has a long and interesting history.

During the years following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, Berkeley became one of the most rapidly growing cities in the state. This rapid growth led to the idea of funding a church to serve the new Northbrae subdivision. Northbrae’s first service was held on February 8, 1914. The present church property, originally part of 40 acres intended for the state capitol, was purchased in 1917.  Local architect, John Hudson Thomas, was hired to design a building. From the start, the congregation envisioned the church serving as a community center. The result was a two-story building dedicated in 1920. 

Northbrae’s second minister, Laurance L. Cross (April 13, 1892–August 27, 1966), was instrumental in the design and building of the Northbrae chapel.  He headed the church from 1924 until his death in 1966.  He was Mayor of Berkeley from 1947 to 1955. As Mayor, Cross was noted for his solid support of civil rights.  On May 23, 1952, for example, he spoke out on behalf of Paul Robeson’s right to appear on Bay Area stages.  In 1954, he was a Democratic candidate for Governor of California, but narrowly lost the nomination to Richard Graves at the state party convention.

The present A-frame chapel was built and dedicated in January 1958. After the death of Rev. Cross, the chapel was rededicated in 1967 as the Laurance L. Cross Memorial Chapel. The original 1920 building, known as Haver Hall, continues to serve as a community center.

The stained-glass windows in the chapel were created by Dr. Jon Wallis of Pasadena and reflect the inclusiveness of Northbrae philosophy.  See Torchbearers Windows.

In 2014, Northbrae celebrated its Centennial. As we look back over Northbrae’s past one hundred plus years, it is remarkable how closely our church has adhered to its original commitment to inclusiveness, becoming even more inclusive as the decades have passed. Our second minister, Rev. Laurance Cross, wrote a tiny booklet during his tenure entitled “A New Kind of Church.” In it, he stated that Northbrae “is Christian in the sense that 99% of its members are Christian. It is not Christian in the sense that it will take into full membership a Jew, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Hindu — anybody who will promise to do good and be good.”

We look forward to our next hundred years as a spiritual home for anyone from any background and continuing to serve as a community resource for the entire area.  See Northbrae Centennial Booklet.

Please visit the Northbrae Area History page to read the history of the Northbrae and Thousand Oaks areas of north Berkeley.

Northbrae Community Church