Obscura Society LA: Temple to the Stars - Atlas Obscura
Our new kids' book is on sale! Shop now.

Los Angeles

Obscura Society LA: Temple to the Stars

Join Obscura Society LA as we take a rare look inside the Golden Age of Hollywood's religious sanctuary

With Hollywood's boom in the 1920s, people from across the country and world flocked to the Los Angeles area to become a star. Million dollar film studios sprouted up among the palm trees, beaches, and orange groves of Southern California to satisfy the movie appetite of America. People from all nationalities, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds arrived in the City of Angels looking for a spiritual awakening in the California sun. 

The Wilshire Temple made it's "feature-length debut" in 1929, housing the largest Jewish congregation this side of Chicago. Hollywood stalwarts Louis Mayer (co-founder of MGM), Carl Laemmle (founder of Universal), and the Warner brothers were among the major fiancees of the homogenous synagogue.  The Temple captured the austere, the grandioseness, and the luster of the roaring 20s in Hollywood. A 100-foot wide Byzantine gold and blue dome, bronze chandeliers, stained glass windows, a 4,000 pipe organ, and larger than life murals (painted by Hollywood art director turned legendary LA muralist Hugo Ballin) made the praying secondary. 

It immediately became a place to see and a place to be seen. Besides being a religious palace, it was the sight of A-list weddings, movie shoots, and big money Hollywood deals. 

But, soon, the soaring splendor of the Wilshire Temple began to fall on hard times. Between families moving west, financial hardships, and a general exodus from more urban areas, the synagogue rapidly lost numbers. Though it remained home to a congregation, the walls began to crumble, the dome began to crack, and the Jewish community began to leave. 

In 2012, the doors to the Temple closed, but not forever, for a rebirth. As was the case in the 20's, Hollywood money came and 150 million dollars was raised to restore the Wilshire Temple to it's former glory. 

Now, as the famous Hollywood line goes, "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."

The Wilshire Temple has opened it's doors to a few select groups to showcase this remarkable turn around. 

Come join Field Agent Robert Hemedes on an exclusive Obscura Society LA tour, as we see the results of the restoration that included repairing and restoring the dome, the stained glass windows, the 4,000 pipe organ, and the murals to their former glory for future generations to admire and enjoy. 

Notes for this Adventure

- All visitors will be required to pass through security checkpoints. We recommend that you carry as little as possible and leave larger purses and bags at home.

- Please bring a valid form of picture ID.

- Please no food or beverages.

- Wear comfortable walking shoes. There will be a good deal of walking on this tour, as well as stairs. 

- This is a place of worship, so please be respectful.

- Due to Temple weekend restrictions, this tour is only available weekdays. Sorry! 

- We have to provide a list of attendees prior to the event, so the event will close for sign-ups no later than Monday morning, May 12th. So, get your tickets early!

- Please arrive by 9:15 am to ensure we can start promptly at 9:30 am .

- Street parking is available North of Sixth Street, as well as metered parking on the streets surrounding the Temple (Harvard on the East, Hobart on the West and 6th Street on the North). Please note parking restrictions. There is a paid parking lot located on the southwest corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Harvard. Limited parking may be available in the Temple Lot (located on the northwest corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Harvard – accessible from Harvard).