The Haggarty Estate, 1929
Courtesy Palos Verdes Library District, Local History Center

Malaga Cove and the Haggarty Residence, 1929
Courtesy Palos Verdes Library District, Local History Center

The Haggarty Estate 

Built as a summer home, J.J. Haggarty’s mansion was constructed in 1927-1928 and originally featured over 15,000 square feet of living space and 32 rooms. Designed by Italian architect Armand Monaco and landscaped by the Olmsted Brothers, the Haggarty Estate was built to model a Mediterranean villa with ceiling murals, carved balustrades, wrought iron gates and decorations that still bear the J.J.H. monogram. Later dubbed “The Merchant Prince’s Showplace” (a nod to Haggarty’s status as a merchant with department stores specializing in women’s fashion), the Estate featured sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Bay. The property originally featured a waterfall, a grotto, a large swimming pool, a bath house and a private pier, the remains of which are still visible during especially low tide. 

In the early 1930s, Haggarty sold the home to London Exploration Company due to financial issues arising from the Great Depression. One resident, a wealthy Midwest financier named Henry Wheeler, used the property as a sort of private museum for his impressive art collection. Following Wheeler’s death, the property went on the market to little interest. In 1951, the Church, seeking a permanent home, purchased the property for $60,000 from the London Exploration Company. Though some renovations have occurred, the building and grounds still bear several features from the Haggarty days, including intricate ceiling murals, lush olive trees and a seaside walkway with views from the Hollywood sign to Malibu. 

Sunday School students and teachers outside of the Malaga Cove School, 1936
Courtesy Neighborhood Church Historical Archives

The congregation gathers for the first baptism in the Neighborhood Church's new home, October 1952
Courtesy Neighborhood Church Historical Archives

The Neighborhood Church

While Mr. Haggarty was envisioning his new home, families on the Peninsula were seeking a Church community. Lacking a Church in the area, in 1926 the Palos Verdes Woman’s Club started a community Sunday School in the home of Florence and George Gibbs.  In March of 1927, the first Easter Sunrise service was held on the hills of Palos Verdes. By 1937, this community church found a temporary home at the Malaga Cove School where they held Sunday School classes and services with a rotating schedule of guest ministers. In 1939, this gathering became officially known as “The Neighborhood Church in Palos Verdes Estates.”

By 1946, the Congregation had grown to over 150 members and was in need of a permanent Church home. Led by Rev. Richard Dawson, the Church used donations and pledges that ranged in amount from $25 to $16,000 to purchase the Haggarty estate on Paseo del Mar.

Since 1961 when the congregation became affiliated with the United Church of Christ, we have continued our tradition of creative Christian ministry under the leadership of our clergy and laity. Though some things have changed during our church’s history, many have not. Our origins trace from homes to a school to a historic estate, but our ministry and mission have remained the same. We continue to host Bible Study classes, have Sunday School and Childcare available every Sunday, and most importantly, we still welcome everyone to join us in Christian community as we live our covenant: “In the love of truth and the Spirit of Jesus, we unite for the worship and service of God.”