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COSTA MESA : Old Air Base Chapel to Be Demolished

October 04, 1990|MARY ANNE PEREZ

By the end of this month, the building that was the chapel to the Santa Ana Army Air Base during World War II will be demolished.

The chapel is one of the few remaining buildings from the military base, said Betty Jean Beecher of the Costa Mesa Historical Society. Other buildings are scattered throughout the area, some having been moved over the years.

The barracks and administration buildings are still in use on the Orange County Fairgrounds, and two mess halls are being used for storage and a workshop on the Orange Coast College campus. Another is now the African Baptist Church in Santa Ana.

Although the historical society wanted to preserve the chapel, it didn't raise enough money and is now working on documenting the building through photographs and other information.

"If we would have known about (the demolition plans) a year ago, we would have asked the city to look into it and see if they could have budgeted for it," Beecher said. "It has to be done by the city. It's the city's history and their job to preserve it."

The chapel was moved to its current site in 1947 to become the first St. Joachim Catholic Church at 1964 Orange Ave. The first Mass was celebrated on Christmas Day of that year, according to the Rev. Kenneth Krause, pastor of St. Joachim.

In 1954, the church expanded the chapel to double its seating capacity to 400. When the congregation continued to grow, a second church--the one now in use--was built in 1965. The old chapel has since been used as the parish hall, for dinners, meetings and school performances, Krause said.

After the demolition is completed, the church plans to build a $1.2-million multipurpose building that will house a preschool and kindergarten.

"We had no other place to build it and no funds to move the chapel to another place, as the historical society wanted," Krause said.

But Beecher maintains that old buildings should be preserved to teach the history of the area. When buildings must be demolished, the historical society places information plaques at their original sites.

"I just went down and cried because I was so in hopes that we could preserve the chapel. The thing is that the Santa Ana air base has been responsible for a lot of changes in this little town."

Beecher said many soldiers liked the area so much they settled here after leaving the service. She estimates that 220,000 Army and support personnel came through the base from 1942 to 1945.

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