Conceived of War, Born of Cotton

It was WWI and the United States was unable to obtain from Egypt the long staple cotton required for manufacturing their tires. Additionally, there was a boll weevil infestation in the South, which decimated the cotton supply from Georgia.

Paul W. Litchfield, then vice president of production for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, came to the Valley of the Sun in 1916, seeking another source for cotton. He had been told by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the soil and sun conditions here were similar to Egypt.

Mr. Litchfield initially bought 16,000 acres in the West Valley, and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company set up their operation to grow the long-fiber, Pima cotton. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Litchfield laid out the town for the employees; cleared for roads, erected the flagpole, and planted the palm and orange trees.

He also set aside acreage for a non-denominational Protestant church and for the Catholic Mission Church that was built in 1920.

On March 27, 1938, devoted members came together and formally organized a non-denominational church, which they named The Church at Litchfield Park.

The church organization was complete, but it lacked a church. Mr. Zieske took his building problem to Mr. Litchfield, where he found a sympathetic ear and a deep personal interest in the project. The timing was not the best for the company, the Great Depression of the thirties had drained the resources of the company.

The Hotel Bar

As it happened, the Wigwam had opened to the public as a resort hotel, but it lacked a bar. Mr. Litchfield adamantly opposed both the resort and the bar. The hotel management continued to press vigorously for a bar, which would make the resort more attractive to guests and be more profitable.

Here then, was an opportunity for a horse trade. Mr. Litchfield could have his church if he allowed the Wigwam Resort to have its bar. So, the deal was struck.

The story goes that the design for the inside of the church came from a gambling casino in Ensenada, Mexico. Mr. Litchfield was so entranced by the interior of the structure that he make a detailed drawing to be used as a model for the sanctuary of the church.

Then he happened to see a newspaper picture of the early mission in Santa Barbara with architecture that so appealed to him that he clipped it out and handed it over, with the casino sketch, to the Southwest Cotton Company’s (a subsidiary of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company) engineers as a basis for their construction plans.

The architect who drew up the plans is now unknown, it is appropriate that the architectural credit go to Mr. Litchfield.

To The Glory of God

Ground was broken on September 10, 1939, and the church was constructed by the Southwest Cotton Company’s engineering crew. The church walls were built of mud made into adobe bricks from the dirt dug out to create the foundation.

On November 6th, the cornerstone was placed, containing a Bible, the church roll of 70 charter members, and copies of the constitution.

On December 10, 1939, the congregation held their first service in The Church at Litchfield Park and dedicated it To the Glory of God and the Good of all Mankind.

For a quarter century thereafter, it stood as the only Protestant church in the community.