Junipero Serra Hall

Nestled inconspicuously at the corner of Garden and Los Olivos streets in the City’s Upper East Side, this simple rectangular building was designed by noted church architect Ross Montgomery in 1929-30. In 1926, Montgomery had designed the chapel and tower at St. Anthony’s Seminary just around the corner from Junipero Serra Hall and in that building he created a magnificent space which transports us back to a medieval European church tucked in the corner of a crowded village. Then again in 1936, Montgomery designed Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Montecito in a Hopi Revival style. Interestingly enough, he used an almost identical door surround at Mount Carmel as he did at Junipero Serra Hall, although the architectural lineages of these diverse styles had never previously (nor subsequently) ever converged. Although this modest building was conceived as a multipurpose meeting hall, a characteristic that usually relegates a building to “also ran” status, it won second place in the Plans and Plantings Committee’s 1929 design competition.

The building’s garden has three large olive trees that are remnants of the original olive orchard planted under the supervision of the Mission’s founder, Father Junipero Serra. Also in that garden is a time capsule placed to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ “discovery” of America (1992) that is scheduled to be opened in 2092. The landscaping surrounding the property’s perimeter acts as a buffer between the otherwise unadorned cement plaster walls and grassy garden from the surrounding bustling streets. The structure and grounds are elevated above the streets by the ubiquitous three-foot-high Santa Barbara sandstone wall so typical of both this architectural style and the neighborhoods of the Upper East Side.