CC SA-BY Our Oakland

St. Vartan Armenian Apostolic Church is an Armenian church dating back to the 1920s.


March 4, 1956 ground breaking
courtesy Lee Brenkman

The first church service was held Sunday, June 1, 1924 at the Greek Church in West Oakland. Reverend Father Vartan Kasparian officiated.

During the Great Depression, the congregation bought a church on the southeast corner of 23rd Avenue and East 17th Street for $5,000.

23rd Ave. and E17th St., 1950 Sanborn excerpt

The congregation grew, and in the 1950s they needed more room. On May 25, 1955, they purchased a lot at Spruce Street and McKinley for about $35,000. The church's history page says, "The buildings on the lot were a large home and carriage house from the estate of F. Borax Smith. The house was razed to allow Phase I construction of the church building but the carriage house remained and was put to good use." 1 While the house at 652 Spruce St. had plenty of connections to "Borax" Smith, there's no evidence it ever belonged to him.

On Sunday, March 4, 1956, they held a ground breaking ceremony. They planned to hold a "sacred foundation" ceremony about 10 weeks later.

The church building was constructed first, and consecrated on April 7, 1957. 3

1957 3

By 1960, they had also constructed a fellowship hall next door.

1960 Sanborn excerpt

Present Day

The church is still going 100 years later. Since 2020, the parish priest has been Reverend Father Krikor Zakaryan; the previous priest was Reverend Father Hovel Ohanyan.

The church still holds an annual Armenian Food Festival in October. 2 In front of the church is a memorial commemorating the victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.

Photos CC SA-BY Our Oakland.

Links and References

  1. St. Vartan Armenian Apostolic Church website
  2. At an Oakland church, Armenians have been keeping their culture alive for 100 years Oaklandside October 5, 2023
  3. Consecration Oakland Tribune April 8, 1957