Church prepares for rebuilding after crash

When Warner Avenue Baptist Church held its first service after June 5, it had an exceptional amount to be thankful for.

That Tuesday, a pickup truck had barreled through the intersection at Warner and Gothard Street, flying into the 106-year-old church building and smashing part of its entryway. For a few hours, as police and fire officials stepped over broken glass and a tow truck gingerly removed the truck's remains from the premises, some onlookers might have guessed that Huntington Beach had lost another piece of its past.

As it turned out, though, the crash — for which the driver received a DUI citation — only demolished part of the building's exterior. So the next time the congregation met, it came in through the back entrance and found the interior, mercifully, unchanged.

"We, of course, were thanking God for the fact that no one was injured in the whole thing," Intern Pastor Kevin Weston said. "Normally, there's a lot of pedestrian traffic in that intersection, and thank God that no one was there [during the accident]."

Now, the church's leaders are preparing to have the structure rebuilt. Weston said the staff plans to submit plans to the city and line up a contractor in the coming weeks.

"It's probably going to be at least a month of preparation and then work beyond that," he said. "It's going to be a little bit of a process, but it will get done."

Mark Carnahan, the inspection manager for the city's Planning and Building Department, said the California Historical Building Code would allow the structure to be rebuilt as it was, at least as far as the public sees. Some parts of the building, he said, might require stronger internal supports than in the original.

"Because it is a historical building, they're allowed to use that code," he said. "That code pretty much allows you to build it back, and they want you to build it back as close as possible to how it was originally constructed."

The wooden structure was built in 1906 in Wintersburg, a community that became part of Huntington Beach in the 1950s. A Methodist church used the building before the Baptist church took over in 1965. Pastor Steve Orman said the accident was the third of its kind in the last 26 years, which he attributed to the church being built so close to the curb.

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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