The history of the Congregational Church of the Peninsula is really two very different stories — one about the historic First Congregational Church of Redwood City, the first Protestant Church in San Mateo County which opened its doors in 1862, and the Congregational Church of Belmont, which was a mission church of the Congregational Church of San Mateo. CCB began holding services in the Belle Monti Country Club in 1954.
These two strong threads of Congregational worship in the county were woven together in a merger in June 2023. We’ll start with the pioneering First Church of Redwood City:
The Story of First Church
When First Church was founded in 1862 in a small building in downtown Redwood City, no one could have predicted the radical changes that the next 159 years would bring to this town and to our society in general.
In 1862, we were the only Protestant church in San Mateo County. There were no cars and no paved roads. Most goods were moved by teams of oxen, or by train, or by tall ships (yes, tall ships in downtown Redwood City!). Very few women held jobs. There were no phones or televisions, no computers, no Facebook, no Twitter, or Instagram.
Our first church building was known as “the little church on the island” because it was reached by crossing a bridge to a peninsula almost surrounded by Redwood Creek at the corner of what is now Jefferson and Middlefield Roads.
We worshipped in that first church building for nearly 60 years before building a new, and far larger, building on that same downtown site which we occupied for another 30 years.
In 1893 we realized that some of our parishioners had to travel over five miles by horse-drawn wagons on a dirt road down the hill from the town of Woodside. We purchased property there and sponsored Woodside Village Church through the early 1900s.
The 1906 earthquake knocked our church building off its foundation and broke all the crockery that had been set out for a church dinner, but we still lent a hand to the people in San Francisco. We met in the Baptist Church for the next six months while repairs were made.
We continued to prosper in the 1920s under Rev. Dr. Robert J. Currie and became even more closely integrated with the progress of the community. Redwood City largely owes the idea of the Easter Cross to Rev. Currie. And, in 1925, our member, Wilbur H. Doxsee, coined Redwood City’s current motto, “Climate Best by Government Test” — for which he won $10.
In 1954, First Church moved to a new site on the rapidly developing west side of Redwood City at the corner of Euclid and McGarvey (fondly called “The Church of the Rock”) where we thrived for another 50 years.
Read more about the history of First Church here.
The Story of Congregational Church of Belmont
By the late John Brooke, CCB Pastor Emeritus
The building which houses the Congregational Church of Belmont was built in 1925 as the Belle Monti Country Club, as a sales promotion for the “Country Club Estates” lots which were sold in the surrounding area. Complete with a nine-hole golf course and an Olympic-size pool (where the back parking lot now is), the ballroom included (and still does include) light fixtures which featured crossed golf clubs.
In 1981 I had a baptism for a baby, whose grandfather stood up with the family for the Sacrament. After the service he told me that where he stood for his grandson’s baptism was almost the same spot where he had played his trombone for a country club dance 50 years earlier!
The country club went bankrupt during the Depression. It stood vacant for some time, then successively was used as a military training facility during World War II, then a medical research facility by several groups, the last being the Kaiser Corporation. Mrs. Kaiser sold the property — the building essentially as it is to this day — and over four acres of land to the Northern California Conference of the United Church of Christ in 1953 for $45,000.
Usually a new church begins with a handful of folk who meet in a garage or a school until they can afford to build the first unit of their church building. In Belmont’s case, the building preceded the people. Sam Owens, a longtime member of our church family, was among a group of members from the Congregational Church of San Mateo who went door-to-door early in 1954 to find people interested in being part of this new church. . .
To read the complete history and lots more personal stories, view the 50th Anniversary Storybook.
Following are more historical photos of the CCB building.