Our Story

A beacon on the hill

The Rt. Rev. William Ingraham Kip, D.D., Missionary of the Episcopal Diocese of California, held the first Anglican service in Monterey. On July 30, 1854, Eucharist was celebrated in the upstairs Court Room of Colton Hall. This was five years after the meetings of the Constitutional Convention that drafted the first California State Constitution in Colton Hall, 1849*. 
After the Rev. James Shannon McGowan had established St James Church, Bishop Kip returned to Monterey in 1878 to consecrate the completed church structure. At the time, Bishop Kip spoke of St James “…as a beacon upon the hill… May its light spread and its life abound with good work.”
—Susan Burns Wright, Parish Historian



By the mid-1950s, the church building on Pacific Street and its facilities had become too small. There was no room for expansion and no parking space. The cramped quarters made it impossible for St. James to accept many opportunities to be of service to the community.
In 1954 Bishop Karl M. Block purchased the property at 381 High Street for use as a vicarage and parish house. Because of St. James’ special call to serve military personnel, the new site next door to the Presidio would surely facilitate this mission. 

Urban Renewal

Thus read the Monterey Peninsula Herald, November 4, 1967.
The “little church on the hill” had been home to several different denominations since the mid-1950s when St James moved to Franklin and High Streets.
Despite its historic background, when Urban Renewal came to Monterey the building had to be removed. The City offered it to any group that would preserve it.
Through the efforts of the Monterey History and Art Association, Old St James was bought for $1.00 and moved to Van Buren Street beside the Doud House [where it still stands].
On August 26, 1970, in the midst of Old Monterey’s Bicentennial Year, the salvaged church became the
“Mayo Hayes O’Donnell Library.” 

A New Place

The beautiful redwood parish hall received its official name in October of 1964. Seven entries from parishioners had been submitted to The Bishop’s Committee, and Mrs. William O’Donnell’s suggested name, McGowan House, was chosen by ballot that evening. The new name fittingly honored the founder and builder of Old St James.

The Birth of an Inclusive Spiritual Center

Today, the frequentation at Saint James and McGowan House is more diverse than ever. Different expressions of faith make the wealth of this of reflection and worship.