Claremont United Church of Christ, Congregational, was organized in 1891 as the Claremont Congregational Church. The first fifteen years, the congregation met in Sumner Hall and later Holmes Hall on the campus of Pomona College. The founding pastor was Charles Burt Sumner. There were three other pastors before 1900 when the congregation called Dr. Henry Kingman. He served as pastor for 17 years as the membership increased year after year.
In 1906 the first building was dedicated on the site where the Henry Kingman Chapel now stands. The church grew steadily and was the only Protestant church in Claremont. In the mid-1920s, more space was needed. The Guildhall was constructed and dedicated in 1928. It was large enough to hold a very large Sunday School population as well as serve as a Community Center for Claremont. At this time the church was called The Claremont Church or Claremont Community Church.
After the Second World War
After the second world war, the old wooden building was in disrepair and not earthquake-proof. The congregation decided to build the current sanctuary. Over the years, the church had purchased property along Sixth Street. Theodore Criley was hired as the architect. He encouraged the building committee to contract with local artists to enhance the architecture. Contributing artists included Millard Sheets, Albert Stewart, Jean and Arthur Ames, David Scott, Harrison McIntosh, Phil Dyke, Betty Davenport Ford, and Sam Maloof. The sanctuary building was dedicated in 1955. The same year the top floor of the Guildhall was remodeled to make larger classrooms for Sunday School.
Upon completion of the Sanctuary building, plans were being made for a chapel. The old building had been torn down and the Kingman Chapel constructed. It was dedicated in 1963. In 1966, the congregation voted to join the United Church of Christ and again changed the name.
In the 1970s, the Guildhall and Sanctuary building were redecorated and the exteriors repainted. The year 1992 was the centennial year of celebration. The next decade the congregate voted to become Open and Affirming, where all persons are accepted regardless of their race, background, or sexual orientation. The Sanctuary was again remodeled with the addition of the new organ, sound system, and lighting and acoustical work and the Guildhall refurbished. We entered the communication age with radio broadcasts some years ago and have televised services and special programs to retirement centers and special orders in addition to podcasts of sermons.
Through the years, church members have been leaders in the community serving as Council Members and members of various commissions. The establishment of Pilgrim Place, Mount San Antonio Gardens, Oak Park Cemetery, and Casa Colina were all the result of the congregation’s efforts.
In this brief account of the remarkable history of the Claremont United Church of Christ, it has been necessary to focus on the major elements of the story. The church has had outstanding lay and clergy leadership throughout its history.