VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System
Photo of the chapel taken by famed architectural photographer Julius Shulman.
The Old Soldiers Home Chapel is a rare early American example of a multi-denominational chapel, a building that includes multiple chapels under one roof. In this case, there are two chapels, one for Protestants and the other for Catholics. The two chapels are separated by an interior wall that is buffered by four-inches of space intended as soundproofing, a consideration necessitated by a desire to allow both chapels to operate simultaneously so that neither faith could be said to have been given a preferential time slot.
The wooden frame Shingle Style chapel dates back to 1900 making it the oldest extant building on Wilshire Boulevard, a reminder of the important role that the VA’s predecessor – the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (NHDVS) – played in the growth of the Los Angeles Metropolitan area. In fact, the Pacific Branch of the NHDVS, colloquially known as the Old Soldiers Home, was established here with a grant of land and cash by the founders of Santa Monica who anticipated that the branch would have a positive impact on the real estate prices of the surrounding area, land that had previously been used primarily for grazing livestock.
The chapel was used for religious services, weddings, substance abuse counseling, and funeral rites by both veterans and members of the local community until the Sylmar earthquake of 1971 made the building unsafe for use. The chapel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Although the chapel has been closed since the 1971 earthquake, the building is still largely intact and contains many of its original elements. That having been said, the almost entirely wooden structure is constantly under attack by termites and sits upon an unreinforced foundation. In other words, unless repairs are implemented soon, this national treasure may be lost forever.
Color post card of the Chapel sold to tourists who visited the campus circa 1900.
Learn more about the Old Soldiers Home Chapel and the history of West Los Angeles campus of the GLA VA Healthcare System by exploring this site.