A 1915 drawing of our chapel


Our small town was one of the earliest English-speaking settlements on the San Francisco Peninsula. Settlers arrived here in the 18th century to log the rich stands of redwoods. During the 1849 Gold Rush, 20-year-old Mathias Alfred Parkhurst purchased 127 acres of timberland and called it Woodside. Around 1838, Charles Brown built the area’s first sawmill. By 1850, there were a dozen mills producing building materials for a burgeoning San Francisco. Timber was floated to San Francisco from a nearby port, now called Redwood City. Woodside continued as a center of timber until the end of the 19th century.

Woodside next became the center of wine production for California. The wine industry started here when Hungarian Count Harasthy founded the Buena Vista Winery just north of the present-day Woodside. By 1889, 800 acres held vineyards. In 1916, Woodside’s wines won recognition as the best in the state.

May 1893: Church opens

In 1889, Pastor L.D. Rathbone of the Congregational Church of Redwood City opened a Sunday school in Woodside. At this time, Woodside’s great mansions were first being built. The Sunday school first met in Scout Hall in Woodside village.

horsesIn April 1891, the people of Woodside decided that they wanted a church of their own. Three men from the community joined the Redwood City congregation to plan a church in Woodside. In 1893, the Redwood City congregation authorized a committee to solicit subscriptions for the new church. W.C. Bowman and George C. Ross donated 500 square feet of land. Construction began March 17, 1893 and took just over two months.

The church was dedicated on May 21st, 1893. The building cost $1,200 and the church opened free of debt, with $19 remaining in the construction account. This structure, beautifully refurbished 100 years later, is still used as a chapel for weddings, summer worship services, and special celebrations.

A new, larger sanctuary

In 1954, Rev. J. Hood Snavely led the congregation in a phase of significant growth. In 1961, the church dedicated a new sanctuary with larger seating capacity. Hand-made glass windows, solid redwood pews, and a state-of-the-art organ made this new sanctuary a welcoming and inspiring work of art. The sanctuary’s seven stained-glass windows were designed by Mark Adams of San Francisco and executed in the studios of Gavriel Loire in Chartres, France. The windows are made of thick, sculptured stained glass set in reinforced concrete, a technique developed in the 1930s. The final window, portraying the crucifixion, was installed in February 1963.

The theme of the windows comes from Jesus: “I am the light of the world.” The windows were placed so that the light coming through the crucifixion window shines on the pulpit. The light from the resurrection window shines on the communion table. When congregants come forward for communion, they pass through Christ’s death into the promise of eternal life.

—From “Woodside Church, First Hundred Years,” by Lois Lindley, 2004

Window artist Mark Adams

Mark Adams was known for the grace and delicacy of his spare, single-object still life pictures, and for the big stained-glass windows and tapestries he was commissioned to create for churches, synagogues, libraries, and office buildings around the Bay Area. He made stained-glass windows for Temple Emanu-El and Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and the Lafayette-Orinda United Presbyterian Church, among others, and did tapestries for such diverse places as the San Francisco International Airport, the Marina branch of the San Francisco Public Library, and the Dallas Fairmont Hotel.

Adams’ more intimate work was shown in group and solo exhibitions at museums and galleries around the Bay Area and the country and found its way into many private collections.

stainglass“He was a lovely man, a real gentleman with a great soul,” said San Francisco art dealer John Berggruen, who showed Adams’ work for 25 years. “He did these beautifully poetic watercolors that had a real presence about them. His floral images, and his depiction of common everyday objects, were very compelling. We would exhibit his watercolors every two or three years, and they’d all sell. People would be lined up at the gallery at 9:30 in the morning to buy them. He had a wonderful run. Berggruen recalled the warm feeling of the old Mission District firehouse where Adams and his wife, artist Beth Van Hoesen, lived, worked and entertained friends for more than 50 years.

Adams was born in Fort Plain, N.Y., and studied at the University of Syracuse’s School of Fine Arts. He moved to New York City in 1945 and studied at painter Hans Hoffman’s School of Fine Arts and at Atelier 17. The next year, he hitchhiked to San Francisco and worked on the restoration of Carmel’s Mission San Carlos Borromeo under the leadership of Harry Downie, digging ditches and painting the Stations of the Cross in a Spanish Colonial style in the mission chapel.

After further study at Columbia University, Adams returned to San Francisco and got a job making window displays at Gump’s. Inspired by the tapestries he had seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, he began creating his own tapestries in 1952. His first piece was included in a show of religious art that year at the de Young Museum. Three years later, he apprenticed with French tapestry designer Jean Lurçat and traveled with his wife through Europe and North Africa.

Returning to San Francisco, Adams began doing commissioned tapestries for public and private buildings, and in 1960 got the first of many stained-glass commissions, for San Francisco’s Clarendon School. He was painter in residence at the American Academy in Rome in 1963 and over the years taught at various colleges in the Bay Area and beyond.

Adams is survived by his wife, Beth Van Hoesen.

San Francisco Chronicle, January 28, 2006