Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 9th, 1941, thrusting America into a three-pronged war against Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, and Fascist Italy.
Many first-generation Italians barely spoke English and often worked so hard, they never got around to being naturalized.
Resident aliens were classified as potential enemies.
Yet the Japanese in California got the worst of it, as both Japanese nationals and Japanese American-born citizens were removed into detention camps. Italian nationals were not allowed to reside south of Mission street, so many had to leave their home and relocate.
With the exodus of Italian nationals from the Circles neighborhood, the all black 54th Coast Artillery unit was stationed at Lighthouse Point, arriving Easter Sunday, April 5, 1942. They used the buildings in the forested Phelan Park estate as their barracks, and the decommissioned lighthouse as a spotting tower for enemy aviation, ships, and submarines. Woodrow avenue was used as an emergency air strip in connection with the Coast Artillery, and families of the servicemen moved into some of the vacated cottages in the circles.
After the war, a number of the soldiers settled in the Circles neighborhood.
The building today known as the "Missionary Baptist Church" on the corner of Woodrow avenue and Wilkes circle, was originally built in 1909 as "Thomson and Gillies Grocery". Thomas Gillies ran this grocery until 1939.
In 1941, female pastor Myrtle Anthony had a modest steeple placed on the grocery transforming the building into "the Church of God". This church practiced "free holiness" but it only lasted one year.
The Santa Cruz Missionary Baptist Church was formed in 1948, it was formed under Reverend V.T. Clark originally meeting at 607 South Branciforte ave and then moved into Garfield Park's vacated "Free Holiness" church in 1949. This church was awarded a county landmark plaque.
A 1953 report recommended the city purchase Garfield Park playground for a permanent park.
However, in October 1954, the Christian Churches of Northern California regional board said it couldn't give an answer until their January 1955 meeting, which would be after the city's park lease expired.
The City Council sent a representative to the CCNC meeting, only to learn plans were in the works since November 1954 to build a new church on site. The congregation had tried to get permission from the CCNC after the Tabernacle burned in 1935 hoping to rebuild when the Depression was over. But the regional board leased the land for a park to Santa Cruz which was created at the city's expense.
Although the site moving forward would no longer be a park, the church was just as interested in having a park space which the neighborhood could use.
The CCNC specified that the Garfield Park Congregation would own the building, but if the congregation ceased to exist, the land would revert back to the CCNC.
On November 8, 1957, Garfield Park Christian Church marked the 50th anniversary of its 1907 founding.
The building committee was headed by Wm. Nunes with Frank Barhite as draftsman, stating an interest in a mission style church that emulated the courtyard of the City Hall.
The design that was produced closer followed the California Ranch House style that was popular at the time. A style invented by Wm. Wurster in 1926 when he built "Gregory Farmhouse" in Scotts Valley.
The spire atop the tower was originally painted gold, symbolic of the Light of God descending to earth as a sunbeam.
While the architectural rendering shows a structure more in keeping with California Ranch house style, the similarities to the Santa Cruz adobe-style city hall are notable. In the final plan, they removed one section for seven classrooms, just as the city hall has two projecting wings of uneven size, which opens the corner in a more appealing manner.
It has also been likened to a lighthouse, as it is the most prominent structure on the west side and can be seen from all points within the neighborhood.