The Story of Alma Temple
by Bishop Arthur K. White, Pillar of Fire Church
Through her many books, of which she is the author of some thirty-five, her hymns, tracts, and preaching, hundreds of thousands of people have heard the old-time Gospel message. Syndicated newspaper stories have spread tine information throughout the United States and Canada, as well as Europe, to the effect that "Bishop Alma White has kept the faith." We have looked forward with great anticipation, through months of hard labor and struggling, to the day when the Temple could be dedicated and formally recognized as first of all a house of God, as well as a monument to commemorate what the Lord has done for one lone woman, as it were, in a world of unbelief and spiritual deadness everywhere, when she has dared to preach an unadulterated Gospel without compromise, protesting that God is still on the giving hand and able and willing to answer prayer.
In the spring of 1922, Mother purchased for our society, for the sum of $20,000, the ten lots at the corner of Thirteenth and Sherman Streets, within a stone's throw of the Colorado State Capitol building. Shortly after the contract was signed, the real estate agent asked if he might purchase these lots back, offering much more than the price paid; but Mother steadfastly refused to sell, no amount of profit offering any inducement.
Because of the nation-wide growth of the Pillar of Fire, with increased activities abroad, it was felt that a large auditorium in Denver, the original home of the organization, was necessary. It was needed to contribute to the educational activities of Belleview Junior College, and would offer wonderful opportunities to our preachers and evangelists, because of the great importance of Denver, a rapidly growing city and center for hundreds of thousands of tourists that flock every year to the Rocky Mountain regions. Then, too, Denver is regarded as the western national Capitol, with numerous Federal departments, a mint, and courts, housed in a splendid three million dollar post once, and a large, fine, new marble office building.
In the course of time, the main part of our building was erected, and the basement auditorium with twelve massive pillars finished. The manner in which money was first obtained to start the building of the Temple may be of interest here.
Just after the war, Mother sent to St. Louis, Missouri, some missionaries to do colporteur work, and find, if possible, a location for a deaconess home. At that time there was a great shortage of housing facilities, owing to so little building being done during the war period. Mother recalls visiting these Christian workers, including a man and his wife, who had apartments on the third story of a building on Washington Street, near Grand Avenue. She had considerable difficulty in climbing the stairs, which were poorly lighted. On one occasion when she asked the landlady if she could have a light, the reply was: "Other people go up in the dark, and why cannot you?" A prayer went up from my mother's heart for a place of our own in that great city, and she asked one of our St. Louis friends, who had formerly spent some time in our Bible School in New Jersey if there wasn't something available for purchase or rent. He told her he didn't believe anything could be found, adding that the city was full of soldiers who had returned from the war zone expecting to spend the winter there. Nevertheless, she took a walk, and found, on Morgan Street, less than half a block from Grand Avenue, an old mansion marked "FOR LEASE OR SALE." She noticed that this brick building, with leader pipes torn away, was in a state of general neglect.
Mother decided to look up the real estate man. She went right to the point: "You tell the owner of that building I will give him $5,500 for it." The agent acted as if the offer was out of the question and said that the building belonged to a rich doctor, who, because he had lad trouble with his former tenant, had closed it. He had asked as much as $18,000, and surely would never think of selling it for so little. Nevertheless, he consented to make the offer to the owner, living across the river in Illinois, who sent word back he would accept it, for it seemed that he was anxious to get the property off his hands. A contract was signed and Mother made a deposit of $100.
She immediately boarded the train for our national headquarters. Upon her arrival there, two telegrams awaited her, one announcing that the owner had decided he would not sell at that price; the other, however, reversed this decision as he finally agreed to abide by the contract. The bargain was closed after $900 more had been forwarded from our headquarters in New Jersey, and the property came into the hands of our society.
I remember going with Mother to St. Louis, where at considerable sacrifice and hard work, even sleeping a night or two in the cold, unfurnished building, she directed the repairing and refurnishing of the house. We had no car, and thought possibly I could rent one for a few days. The effort to find one brought me to the head of a great automobile assembly plant, who said that he could not rent us a car, but that he would gladly send a new one around to our place, with a chauffeur, to be used free of charge while we were in the city. Somehow or other, it brought to my mind the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the colt, on which never a man had sat. There was something significant about it.
Later on, about the time we had purchased the Temple lots, a letter came to our national headquarters with an offer of about $20,000 and later $25,000 for this property. On conscientious grounds we refused to sell, since our society was not, and never has been in the real estate business to profit from speculation. Having turned these offers down, we supposed that this would be the end of the matter; but persistency on the part of William Goldman, the would-be purchaser, when he raised the amount to $35,000 cash, caused my mother to consider the matter more seriously and to see that this unprecedented sum for property in that locality meant that it was the will of the Lord to sell. The offer also included paying off improvement assessments and the real estate man's fee, amounting, in all, to $37,300.
When my mother was ascending the stairs on Washington Street, after having been refused light, she claims that the Lord spoke to her saying that the Pillar of Fire should be the head and not the tail. This led to her exerting every effort to find a location in St. Louis, and undertake repairs on an old building.
After the property was sold, we found another place in St. Louis near at hand, for $10,000, on which a payment was made, and our Board of Trustees decided, on the request of Mother, that the surplus of the money from the sale, about $35,000, should be used in helping to build the Temple, in Denver.
The names of business men and friends who either contributed outright or made us very special reductions on building materials, would make a long list. Notable amongst the contributors was Wm. Harvey, who was interested in a quarry of lava stone. He was anxious to introduce this building material for wider use in the city; but more than this, he had read Mother's book, LOOKING BACK FROMBEULAH, and the stone, including the beautiful classic front, with its Corinthian columns, estimated to be worth $18,000, he let us have for $11,000, which represented his donation of $7,000 to the cause.
What would doubtless interest our friends, radio listeners, and particularly the visitors to the Temple, is the fact that the Temple was constructed almost entirely by our own Pillar of Fire workers and mechanics. We have on occasions hired a carpenter, an electrician, or expert plasterers, but our own men cemented the figured moldings in the beautiful cornices in place, piece by piece, pointed, sand-papered, and finished them.
Principal among the men who did the iron and stone work in the building were John Kubitz and Grant Cross, who superintended their helpers. Our Brother John Kubitz, who has been doing mechanical work in the institution for years, came originally to the Pillar of Fire with his family from Butte, Montana. I remember that it was in the summer of 1899 that my brother and I accompanied our parents on a trip to Montana, when Mother opened up a mission in that great copper mining center. Saloons were numerous and drunkenness was rife. Our mission hall was in the half basement of a large hotel building near the center of the city. We stayed during the winter; it was a hard pull and great sacrifices were made. As a result of the mission work, Mr. John Kubitz and his wife were converted and came, later, to our Bible School in Denver. Mr. Kubitz had worked as a master mechanic in the mines of the great copper king of those days, W. A. Clark.
Brother Grant Cross, our chief mason, came to us in about 1903. Both of these men, with their many years of training in our Seminary, are able students of the Bible, but have devoted their time largely to the construction and maintenance of our buildings.
The lower auditorium of the Temple was used for about seven years. Owing to the depression, the work of completing the building was not carried forth until 1933 when contributions of some money and material enabled us to begin work again.
The Pipe Organ, or Putting the Cart Before the Horse
Ordinarily, church auditoriums are first finished and organs installed last. Here is a case where a large organ was installed, with the chambers properly constructed to fit it, before the remainder of the building was completed. During the depression there was in storage in Denver a large Robert Morton, four manual organ. It cost originally only a few years before, $35,000 at the factory in California. As it was too large for ordinary installation the owner told us we could have it for $1,500, then later made Mother a donation price considerably under the first quotation. Early in May the organ parts, which my brother Ray White declared rather hyperbolically covered three city blocks, was taken out of storage and moved to a large room in the basement of our Belleview College for repairs and rebuilding.
The details of how this fine instrument was very thoroughly rebuilt with months of painstaking care by the best organ experts in the country, friends of the Pillar of Fire, and adapted to our Temple auditorium, would ,ale too much space here. But in short, we have a combination of church organ, orchestral organ, and brass band, in one. There are some sets like bells and marimbas, worth alone what one might pay for one of the electric pipeless organs now being advertised. With its 1,300 pipes, it has infinite variety, tremendous power, and yet can be played so quietly as scarcely to be heard unless one listens attentively.
The Problem of Acoustics
One of the great problems connected with radio broadcasting is the acoustical treatment of auditoriums and studios. One of the best authorities in New York City was consulted, and material acquired accordingly, which after its application has resulted in one's being able to hear a pin drop on the platform when standing in the back part of the gallery about 120 feet away. The speaker exercises but little effort in being heard to the farthest reaches of the auditorium.
That the ornamental plastering and acousti-celotex be properly installed has been the concern of our Brother Mortimer Miller, preacher-builder, who has supervised the work of completing the auditorium. Brother Miller came to our Bible Seminary, in New Jersey, from Long Island, before the great war broke out. He had learned building work under some of New York's competent eon-tractors. He was among several young men drafted for the war during the time when we were endeavoring to have our newly established theological school at Zarephath formally recognized by the government. We received recognition eventually, but in the meantime some of our students who were studying for the ministry were called to the training camp. The authorities in Washington acknowledged through my mother's and my appeal their unshaken purpose to devote their lives to the ministry, in accordance with decisions they had made long before the war, and did not send them, as it planned, to France.
Meanwhile, however, Brother Miller was taken with a serious attack of pneumonia and suffered with acute inflamation of the lungs, making it necessary for the surgeon to operate, and resort to draining tubes. His life was almost despaired of, but in answer to the prayers of our people he was restored to health by what the physician considered not less than a miracle. And thus his work on Alma Temple is the result.
Our preacher-painter, Rev. Byron Hopkins, whose chief work has been the painting and decorating of the Temple, was with Brother Miller in Camp D~x. He learned painting and decorating under his father in New England. Just as interesting a story could be told of how he miraculously escaped death from a serious case of peritonitis in Cincinnati; but we cannot tell the histories of all of our workers here, whom the Lord has had in special training and refining fires for spectacular service.
When the Temple was first erected, we had little idea that we should do any broadcasting. It would take a long story to tell of the acquiring of Station KPOF. This is related in our official descriptive pamphlet, which gives a brief history of the work of the Pillar of Fire and describes its operations in the United States and abroad. A brief note will suffice here to the effect that the Pillar of Fire owns the only non-commercial church and educational radio station in Colorado. Our Temple, is therefore, the only metropolitan church with its own radio facilities.
From the thousands of letters we receive from our listeners, we know
that our programs are being well received, and we only hope and pray, with
increased facilities, they shall prove a greater blessing to more and more
people. After all, it may be said that since we have been broadcasting,
to the Christian people of all denominations, Alma Temple belongs to God
and His people everywhere, by whatever name, perhaps more than any edifice
in the State.