The Church of One Tree

The Church of One Tree in Santa Rosa, California, was built in 1873 out of a single giant redwood tree.

Church of One Tree, Santa Rosa
Edward H. Mitchell, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I love redwoods. I have family in the North Bay area of California, and whenever I get the chance I like to walk among the giants. What remains of them, at least. The Armstrong Redwoods, north of Guerneville, are the sole surviving core of an enormous redwood rainforest. The rest of the ancient trees were chopped down in the late 19th and early 20th century CE. Many went towards the reconstruction of San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake and fire. Guerneville picked up the nickname “Stumptown” because it was surrounded by the stripped forest.

In 1873, loggers in the area felled an 84-metre-high redwood tree. This tree was huge – the trunk circumference was more than 17 metres – and it produced 78,000 board feet of lumber. And all of that wood was used for one purpose: to build the First Baptist Church of Santa Rosa. This unique construction earned the nickname “the Church of One Tree.”

Enter Robert Ripley. Ripley was born in Santa Rosa, and when he began writing the syndicated column “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” one of the topics was this church. Various sources suggest that his father built the church, and/or his mother was a member of the congregation within, but I cannot corroborate those. After Ripley’s death, the church became a “Believe it or Not” memorial museum.

Following a proper restoration, the city owns the church and rents it out for events. The fourth link below gives you a virtual tour of this extraordinary edifice’s interior.

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