The Church of Scientology has a huge footprint in Los Angeles, California.
The religion, which made headlines in recent weeks via HBO’s “Going Clear” documentary, owned a “real estate empire of 26 properties” worth as much as $US400 million in the city as of 2011, reported the Hollywood Reporter.
While some critics say Scientology maintains a large real estate portfolio to create the impressions that it is a larger organisation than it really is, there is no question the church has an impressive physical presence in the LA-area.
Business Insider visited many of Scientology’s properties in the city, including the church’s famous “Celebrity Centre” and a museum dedicated to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
The hub of Scientology's presence in Los Angeles is the former Cedars of Lebanon hospital complex. This building, the Pacific Area Command Base (PAC Base) is topped by a massive sign with sixteen-foot-tall letters. It was purchased by the church in 1977. At the time, Scientology leaders said it would be their 'central facility for the United States.' Today, Scientology has its spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Florida, but PAC base still houses dormitories and offices for the church.
Uniformed Scientologists can often be seen coming in and out of the PAC base and working to maintain the building. They have shuttle buses that take them from the complex to the church's other facilities in the LA area.
There are also security guards who constantly patrol the complex. In our experience, they occasionally question and discourage people who attempt to photograph the facility.
Scientology describes the 'Celebrity Centre,' which is headquartered on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, as a 'special' church designed to 'cater' to 'artists, politicians, leaders of industry, sports figures and anyone with the power and vision to create a better world.' The facility holds seminars for actors and writers seeking to break into the business along with other Scientology courses. These acting and writing classes are largely based on 'Scientology tools.'
The 'Celebrity Centre' is located inside the former Chateau Elysee. Construction began on the building in 1927 and it originally served as a high-end apartment complex and hotel. According to KCET, the chateau was 'one of the West Coast centres of 1930s café society.' Residents and guests included Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Errol Flynn. Scientology purchased the building in 1973. The 'Celebrity Centre' contains the 'Renaissance Restaurant,' which is open to the public and serves a well-reviewed Sunday brunch.
One of Scientology's most prominent facilities in Los Angeles is Psychiatry: An Industry of Death Museum. It is operated by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, an anti-psychiatry organisation founded by the church. The museum is open to the public. It includes videos and displays that are critical of psychiatry including many devoted to implements from ancient insane asylums.
Centrally located on Hollywood Boulevard, this facility is open to the public. It offers informational materials about the religion and 'stress tests.' The building was originally built in 1922 as the Christie Hotel. The architect, Arthur R. Kelly, also designed the Playboy Mansion.
Scientology's information center is located on one of the busiest stretches of Hollywood Boulevard between Vine Street and Highland Avenue. The area includes many tourist attractions like the TCL Chinese Theatre, Egyptian Theatre, and Musso & Frank Grill. Signs outside the center advertise Scientology programs to passersby.
The sprawling PAC Base complex includes an 'Advanced Organisation.' According to the church's website, advanced organisations offer 'very advanced' Scientology training programs. 'At an Advanced Organisation, the individual recovers lost abilities and gains new insights into the nature of his own spirituality,' the site says.
This 64,571-square-foot structure on Sunset Boulevard was part of the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. It contains a chapel, library, course rooms, bookstore, and an 'extensive public information area.' The building was dedicated at a ceremony in 2010 attended by Scientology leader David Miscavige, who said, 'Today marks a milestone step in our planetary crusade to bring on our help on a truly global scale -- so that one day there is no crime, no war, no insanity.'
According to the church, the Saint Hill churches offer some of 'the most advanced levels' of Scientology's 'auditing' programs. Saint Hill churches are named after an original location in England where Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard lived from 1959 through 1966 and produced what the Church describes as 'some of his most significant discoveries on the mind and spirit.'
There are exhibits dedicated to the expeditions that Hubbard led around the world. Some of his alleged achievements on these travels were questioned in Lawrence Wright's book 'Going Clear.' Scientology has disputed many of the claims made in the book.
Hubbard was a prolific writer who contributed to many pulp fiction magazines. He wrote science fiction stories, Westerns, and adventure tales. Some of these are displayed in a faux newsstand at the museum.
There are also paintings of scenes from Hubbard's life. This one depicts him explaining his philosophy of 'Dianetics' to physicians.
The caption on this painting reads, 'Ron realised that neither the spiritualistic East nor the materialistic West had full understanding of the nature of life and the condition of Man. 1930'
This building houses offices for Galaxy Press, which publishes Hubbard's fiction, Author Services Inc., which licenses his work, and L. Ron Hubbard Theatre. A plaque outside describes the theatre's main program, 'The Golden Age Radio Hour … a weekly live performance, delivered by notable Hollywood actors, dramatizing a wide variety of remarkable stories written by L. Ron Hubbard during the golden age of popular american fiction.'
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