The Armenian Community in the Los Angeles area

The articles in this section were compiled from various Internet sources that are listed below.


Armenian Migration to Los Angeles

Armenian immigration to the United States has been primarily triggered by political rather than economic reasons.  The were two major waves of Armenian immigration:  pre-1920s and post-1960s.  The earliest wave of Armenian refugees fled the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th and early 20th century.   The second wave of Armenian immigration started after 1965 when the restrictive U.S. Immigration Act of 1924 was finally lifted.  The second wave of Armenian immigration was also caused by political turmoil in Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iran.

Thus there is an unusual mix of countries of origin and generations among Armenians.  One group includes the survivors of the first wave of immigrants and their descendants who are now a middle-age second generation, and a young or very young third and even fourth generations.  By contrast Armenian immigrants after 1965 include mostly a first generation ranging widely in age, so that there are both first-generation and third-generation Armenians of the same age.  They differ, of course, in terms of country of origin.

Most of the earlier Armenian immigrants settled in the Eastern states after 1875, but some later migrated to Fresno, California, after 1883, to work in agriculture.  By 1912 there were in Fresno and Tulare counties between 5,500 and 6,000 Armenians.  They controlled between 8,000 and 19,000 acres of land.   In the town of Fresno there were about 100 Armenian merchants and tradesmen, who competed on favorable terms with those of other nationalities.  The combined wealth of the Armenians was estimated at $4 million.

The first Armenian Apostolic parish was established in Fresno at Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church.   Other Armenian churches established in Fresno were the First Armenian Evangelical Presbyterian Church in 1897, which was the first Armenian ethnic church of any denomination in California; it was organized after Armenians attending the Congregational Church were kicked out in 1895.  The Armenian Evangelical Pilgrim Congregational Church, established in 1902, was the second Armenian ethnic church of any denomination in California.  The Armenian Full Gospel Church of God was established in Fresno in 1912 by the Reverend Vartan Moomjian.

Some of the second- and third-generation Armenians left the Fresno community and resettled in Los Angeles.  The new wave of Armenian immigration was directed towards California and especially Los Angeles.    Thus, Los Angeles has attracted both native-born Armenians from Fresno and from the Eastern states, as well as recent immigrants from a few Middle Eastern countries and the Soviet Union.  Los Angeles is now one of the most ethnically diverse Armenian centers in the world.

From 1906 to 1908 there was a large movement of Armenians to Los Angeles.  These were both Russian Armenians from Kars and the plain of Shirak and Turkish Armenians who had wearied of the farmer’s life in Fresno.  They were joined by Armenians from the eastern states as well.  Most came in whole families, and by 1911 the Armenian population had reached 1,000.  Of these 520 were Russian Armenians, a few of whom were Molokans.

The 400 Russian Armenians from Shirak were almost all laborers in the cement and steel works of the San Bernardino area.  The rest of the Armenians were occupied in small business, farming, trades, or small pursuits.   About 100 were estimated to be produce sellers, rug repairers, junk peddlers, clothing pressers, and ice cream sellers.  By 1911 there were five Armenian rug dealers in the area: Pashgian Brothers, Khazoyan, Enfiajian, M. Koroyan, and H. Minasian.   The Armenian immigrants of Southern California clearly demonstrated an independent mentality, wishing to be the master of something, anything, no matter how small or insignificant. Many of them prospered over the years and generations.


The Size of the Armenian Community in Southern California

According to Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of the Armenian Church of North America in May 2007, there are some 450,000 Armenians in the Los Angeles area (compared to an estimated 550,000 Jews); and as primate of his church's Western Diocese, encompassing 14 states, he leads a flock of 800,000.  However, according to the 2000 Census, there were only 138,015 Armenian language speakers in Los Angeles County (this includes East Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley, Glendale, Pasadena, etc., where most Armenians are located).   In addition, there are many people of Armenian ancestry who do not speak Armenian today who are descendents of Armenians who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1920s and later.

The Armenians of East Hollywood tend to be Russian Armenians, with certain cultural characteristics resulting from their experience of living for 70 years under a Communist system.  Iranian Armenians tend to live in Glendale and have their own social and economic networks.  The Armenian community of Pasadena tends to be strongly of Middle Eastern origin.


The Little Armenian Community in East Hollywood

Little Armenia is defined by the Los Angeles City Council as "the area bounded on the north by Hollywood Blvd between the 101 Freeway and Vermont Ave, on the east by Vermont Avenue from Hollywood Blvd to Santa Monica Blvd, on the south by Santa Monica Blvd between Vermont Ave and the 101 Freeway and on the west by the 101 Freeway from Santa Monica Blvd to Hollywood Blvd". (Adopted on 6 October 2000.)[1]

Its name comes from the large number of Armenian-Americans that live in the area and also from the large number of Armenian stores and businesses that had already opened in the neighborhood by the early 1990's. Prior to this time, the neighborhood was known as being a rather seedy one, known for street prostitution, cheap bars, and drug sales. All of these still exist in the area, but to a significantly lesser extent, due to the efforts of the Armenian community and the city government of Los Angeles. Also, gentrification is beginning to spill over into East Hollywood due to its proximity to Los Feliz and Silver Lake, especially in the parts closest to those areas.

St. Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church is an Armenian church that is located inside Little Armenia.  St. Garabed church is the place of prayer for the vast majority of Armenians living in Hollywood. It is located on Alexandria Avenue and it was built in 1978. The church is located front of the Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School.  Little Armenia's only public park is Barnsdall Art Park, which includes the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Hollyhock House and a city-run arts center built in 1919-1921. The park, located on small but scenic Olive Hill, was donated to the city of Los Angeles by oil heiress Aline Barnsdall.

One of the major event that occurs in "Little Armenia" is every year on April 24, when Armenians gather in Hollywood to take part in a protest for the recognition of Armenian Genocide.   According to the Armenians, backed by predominant historical analysis, between 1915 and 1923, Turkey killed 1.5 million Armenian civilians in a planned genocide.  Turkey maintains that some 300,000 Armenians died, but that an equal number of Turks perished, and that both sides were victims of chaotic wartime conditions, disease and famine, not a predetermined extermination.  Turks refer to the wartime slaughter by the Arabic word mukapele, which Sensoy translated during a phone interview as "mutual massacre."

Year after year, Armenian Americans have commemorated the beginning of the slaughter by demanding that modern Turkey formally acknowledge the persecutions and deaths of their ancestors as the Armenian Genocide.  Just as consistently, the Ankara government has refused.

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Armenian Cleric Visits Pasadena, Spreads Faith's Traditions (October 2007)

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Armenian Churches in Southern California

Armenia is a country with a more than two-thousand year history.  Christianity became the state religion in 301 CE, the Kingdom of Armenia being the first state to adopt Christianity.  Distinctively, the Armenian Apostolic Church accepted only the earliest Christian doctrines.  In the nineteenth century, European and American missionizing led to the formation of the Armenian Protestant Church and the Armenian Catholic Church.

There are a variety of religious traditions among Armenians in the Los Angeles area:  Apostolic, Prelacy (Dashnak, anti-Soviet), Diocese (non-Dashnak, accepted Soviet rule of Armenia), Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jehovah's Witnesses (Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York).

The liturgical language for the Armenian Apostolic Church is Grabar [Krapar, Old Armenian, Classical Armenian].  The various organizational structures of this ancient Christian Church are as follows:

    Diocese of North America (non-Dashnak, accepted Soviet rule of Armenia)
   
Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America (the Catholicos of All Armenians in Etchmiadzin, Armenia)
    Prelacy  (Dashnak, anti-Soviet)
   
Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon
    Patriarch of Constantinople  

    The Armenian Apostolic Parish in Los Angeles, 1907
   
Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church, Los Angeles (the first Armenian Apostolic parish in Los Angeles)
    St. James Armenian Apostolic Church, Los Angeles
    St. Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church, Hollywood
    Cilica Armenian Apostolic Church, Pasadena
    St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church, Pasadena

   
Evangelical Armenian Congregations in Los Angeles
   
Armenian Molokan congregation in East Los Angeles (in the "Flats"), 1904 (Pentecostal influence after 1906)
    Gethsemane Armenian Congregational Church, Los Angeles (1908, the first Evangelical Armenian church in Los Angeles)
    Masis Armenian Congregational Church in Los Angeles, 1925
  
    Armenian Gospel Mission of Los Angeles, 1929
    Armenian Pentecostal Church in Los Angeles, 1929
    Immanuel Armenian Congregational Church
in Los Angeles, 1930
    Community House of God, 1940

    Evangelical Armenian Congregations in Pasadena
   
Armenian Cilicia Congregational Church, 1922
    Armenian Evangelical Brethren Church, 1925
    Armenian Brotherhood Bible Church, 1971

   Armenian Apostolic Churches in Pasadena
   St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church, 1948
   St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church in Pasadena, 1980s

NOTE:  See article about the new church building for St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church in Pasadena (10 Sept 2007).

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See the following sources for more information about the history of the Armenian community in Southern California: 

George Byron Kooshian, Jr., "The Armenian Immigrant Community of California:  1880–1935."  Los Angeles:  UCLA, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation in History, 2002:  http://webpages.charter.net/georgebbruin/

George Byron Kooshian, Jr., "The Armenian Immigrant Community of Pasadena, California:  One Hundred Years."  PDF document, 2006. http://webpages.charter.net/georgebbruin/

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Armenian Brotherhood Bible Church History

As the Armenian Evangelical Church was born out of the Mother Church (the Armenian Orthodox Apostolic Church), likewise the Armenian Brotherhood Church was born out of the Armenian Evangelical Church.

In the beginning of the twentieth century, some of the suburbs of Cilicia as Harpert, Marash, Hasan Bay, Aintab, and Adana, had seen strong spiritual awakenings, where numerous persons repented and committed themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Having the desire for a warm spiritual environment, they joined the group that sprang out of the Evangelical Church, which was having unofficial meetings and which had similar concerns. This group was being known as Brotherhood fellowship.

The Genocide did not permit this group to prosper in Cilicia. After the massacres, the remnant of the Armenian people migrated to the Middle East and settled in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. Those who migrated to Europe, mainly settled in Greece and France.

Among those who settled in these countries, there were initiator spiritual brothers who, with the help of God, began similar meetings first at homes and later in rented halls, and finally, when the number of the constituency increased, and the monetary means allowed, they began to move into church buildings.

Among those who migrated to Aleppo, Syria, were Brothers Abraham Seferian, Minas Bozoklian and Mihran Kasardjian. They gathered people together and began to have unofficial home Bible studies. There were a mixed group of people who were born again, from the three denominations (i.e., Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical). In time this group became larger and took more official status, and finally it was named as the Spiritual Brotherhood Church. Due this course movement spread into other countries, although in different names as Armenian Evangelical Brotherhood Church, Armenian Brotherhood Bible Church, etc.

Numerous Brotherhood Churches were established in the Middle East: Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran, Cairo, Alexandria. In Europe: Valance, Paris, Athens. And in South America: Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Sao Paulo, and Montevideo.

The brothers who migrated to North America, established churches in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Fresno, Los Angeles, and Pasadena.

The founder of the Pasadena Armenian Brotherhood Bible Church was Rev. Ephlatone E. Elmajian, who after retiring in 1960's, transferred the work to Rev. Vahram Tourian.

In 1971, seven brothers, together with their families split from the church and founded a new church which conducted services in a rented church building at the corner of Washington and Holeston. The reason for the split was mainly doctrinal.

>The seven founding brothers were: Rev. John Mark, Rev. Joseph Matossion, brothers Dikran Matossion, Abraham Voskerichian, Haigazoon Kuyumjian, Jirair Aitablian and Moses Kasparian. Most of these brothers are in Heaven now.

After one month, the congregation moved to a Methodist church at the corner of Washington Blvd. and Pepper Dr. They stayed there for seven years after which the purchased a building at the corner of Washington Blvd. and Bresee. They had their worship services in the Bresee Nazarene church from 1979 - 1986, when they finally started to use their present location.

The church grew from 40 members to the present 280 membership. The membership grew mainly by new comers from Lebanon, Iran and Armenia.

The Brotherhood Churches are governed mainly by laymen. That was the case with the Pasadena church, when, because of the growth of the congregation, the Board of the Church invited Joseph Matossian to act as the full time pastor of the church. Rev. Matossian served from 1986 to 1994 and he handed the torch to Bro. Samuel Pambakian until 2000; thereafter handed over to Rev. Calvin Sagherian.

Sometime in 1998, the church ventured a giant construction project, by spending around two million dollars. The church built a gymnasium, classrooms and offices, together with a large parking area. These facilities are efficiently used by the church for Sunday School, Bible Study groups, youth activities, banquets and executive offices.

The Brotherhood church that is located in Pasadena is a member of the Union of the Armenian Brotherhood Bible Churches, which has to its membership 16 churches, among them are the two churches in the Los Angeles County: Glendale, with Rev. Krikor Malakian as Pastor; Hollywood, with Rev. Carlos Hadjian as Pastor.

In order to make the spiritual truths available to many and tie the Brotherhood churches together, in 1925, in Aleppo, Syria, a monthly magazine started to be published by the name of Maranatha, with Brothers Abraham Seferian and Minas Bozoklian as the editors. Besides Maranatha there had been other magazines published like Aveli Gyank (Abundant Life) and Tchahert (The Enlightened Journey), as well the Yerchanik Hooys (Blessed Hope) periodical. These periodicals brought a tremendous subsidy to the Armenian spiritual literature and spiritual nourishment to thousands of its readers. Today, only Yerchanik Hooys (Blessed Hope) is in print, as the organ of the Union of the Armenian Brotherhood Bible Churches, and is being published in Pasadena, California.

The members of the Armenian Brotherhood Bible Church in Pasadena give thanks to God for having a home where believers come and worship the Lord, get nourishment from His word, serve Him, have communion with their brothers and sisters in the Lord and prepare for the return of Jesus Christ.

The Lord has helped us up to day, He has been our Ebenezer. May His name be blessed and glorified among His flock.

SOURCE:  http://www.abbcpas.org/history.htm

 

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In March 2003, there were 36 Armenian churches in the Los Angeles basin, with concentrations in Glendale, Hollywood, Pasadena and Montebello.  There were 23 Amenian Protestant churches, the majority of which are Evangelical; 13 Armenian Apostolics (five under the jurisdiction of the Catholicos of Antelias--Cilicia, eight under the Catholicos of Etchmiadzin); and two Armenian Catholic churches.  In their design, the church buildings are a syncretism of traditional Armenian design and twentieth-century California architecture.  It is that transformation from tradition and Armenia to modernity and Southern California that is most striking.

Distribution of Armenian Churches in Los Angeles County, 2003

Name City Denomination
Armenian Cilicia Congregational Church Altadena Protestant- Evangelical
Immanuel Armenian Congregational Church Downey Protestant- Evangelical
Holy Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church Encino Apostolic
Armenian Brotherhood Bible Church (Glendale/Burbank) Glendale Protestant- Armenian Brotherhood Bible Churches
Armenian Church of The Nazarene Glendale Protestant   - Church of the Nazarene
Christ Armenian Church Glendale Protestant
First Armenian Evangelical Church of Glendale Glendale Protestant- Evangelical
St. Gregory Armenian Catholic Church Glendale Catholic
St. Kevork Armenian Church Glendale Glendale Apostolic
St. Mary's Armenian Apostolic Church Glendale Apostolic
Holy Trinity Armenian Church Hollywood Protestant- Presbyterian
United Armenian Congregational Church Hollywood Protestant- Evangelical
First Armenian Pentecostal Church La Habra Heights Protestant- Pentecostal
Armenian Apostolic Church of La Verne La Verne Apostolic
Armenian Baptist Church La Verne Protestant- Baptist
Armenian Brotherhood Bible Church (Hollywood) Los Angeles Protestant- Armenian Brotherhood Bible Churches
Armenian Catholic Church Queen of Martyrs Los Angeles Catholic
Armenian Evangelical Brethren Church Los Angeles Protestant- affiliated with Evangelical Union of America
Armenian Evangelical Church of Hollywood Los Angeles Protestant- affiliated with Evangelical Union of America
St. Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church Los Angeles Apostolic
St. James Armenian Apostolic Church Los Angeles Apostolic
St. John Garabed Armenian Cathedral Los Angeles Apostolic
St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church Los Angeles Apostolic
Sheen Chapel Mission Hills Unconsecrated- open to all denominations
Armenian Evangelical Church of Montebello Montebello Protestant- affiliated with Evangelical Union of America
Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Cathedral Montebello Apostolic
St. Nareg Armenian Church Montebello Protestant- Evangelical
Armenian Apostolic Church of Pasadena Pasadena Apostolic
Armenian Bible Church Pasadena Protestant
Armenian Brotherhood Bible Church Pasadena Protestant- Armenian Brotherhood Bible Churches
Armenian Evangelical Brethren Church Pasadena Protestant- affiliated with Evangelical Union of America
Pasadena Armenian Church of the Nazarene Pasadena Protestant   - Church of the Nazarene
St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Pasadena Pasadena Apostolic
Armenian Bible Church of the Nazarene Sun Valley Protestant - Church of the Nazarene
Armenian Apostolic Church Tujunga Apostolic
St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church Van Nuys Apostolic

SOURCE:  http://www.usc.edu/schools/sppd/about/gallery/armenian/


Map of Location of Armenian Churches in the Los Angeles Area, 2003

armenian_churches2.gif (60928 bytes)

SOURCE:  http://www.usc.edu/schools/sppd/about/gallery/armenian/


SOURCES:

Directory of Armenian churches in the U.S.A.:  http://www.armeniapedia.org/index.php?title=Armenian_Churches_in_the_USA

George Byron Kooshian, Jr., "The Armenian Immigrant Community of California:  1880–1935."  Los Angeles:  UCLA, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation in History, 2002:  http://webpages.charter.net/georgebbruin/

George Byron Kooshian, Jr., "The Armenian Immigrant Community of Pasadena, California:  One Hundred Years."  PDF document, 2006. http://webpages.charter.net/georgebbruin/

Georges Sabagh, Claudia Der-Wartirosian, and Mehdi Bozorgmehr. SUBETHNICITY: ARMENIANS IN LOS ANGELES.   Department of Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles, April 1990:  http://repositories.cdlib.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1011&context=issr

History of Armenian Brotherhood Bible Churches: http://www.abbcpas.org/history.htm

Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Armenia,_Los_Angeles,_California

The Little Armenia Community website:  http://www.littlearmenia.com/

Tom Tugend, "The Armenian Genocide debate pits moral values against realpolitik" in The Jewish Journal (May 4, 2007):
http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/preview.php?id=17609