Echo Park might not immediately strike people as an evangelist hot spot, but in the 1920s, it was the home base of fiery female evangelist and radio sensation Aimee Semple McPherson. She is the woman behind the Angelus Temple at the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (that giant, white amphitheater-looking building at the intersection of Park and Glendale).
Aimee was born into a farming family in Ontario, Canada in 1890. It was a religious household, but Aimee came to evangelism of her own accord. She began preaching in 1913, traveling throughout Canada and the United States and holding tent revivals. She became known as a faith healer, and became so popular that her gatherings began to fill to over capacity.
In the late 1910s, Aimee decided to settle in Los Angeles with her mother and her two children. She bought a plot of land next to Echo Park Lake which she described as “heaven on earth.” It was here that she decided to build a church from which she would spread the Foursquare Gospel, the name that she gave to her teachings after experiencing a vision.
While preaching in Oakland in 1922, Aimee had a vision similar to the one in the first chapter of the book of Ezekiel. She saw a cup, a dove, a crown and a cross and believed they symbolized (respectively) healing, baptism, the Savior and the Second Coming. She believed that these four symbols corresponded to everything that was important in society and in one’s own life. She named her teachings, with their focus on these four pillars of life, the Foursquare Gospel.
It took less than two years to build the church (1920 to 1922), and it was dedicated on January 1, 1923. It was built entirely with donations that Aimee collected from her followers which is believed to have amounted to 1.2 million dollars.