The small town of Woodside 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.
In 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