When radio evangelist Herbert Armstrong moved the headquarters of the World Wide Church of God to Pasadena in 1947, he decided to found a college to prepare the youth of his congregation for careers in the ministry. He began buying up mansions on Orange Grove Boulevard’s “Millionaire’s Row,” including the historic Greek Revival style Hulett C. Merritt mansion, which became the entryway to the eclectic campus of Ambassador College.
Hiring architectural firm Daniel, Mann, Johnson, and Mendenhall and landscape architect Garret Eckbo, Armstrong began building out a campus that would combine the historic existing homes with new Mid-Century and Late Modern classroom and administrative buildings to create a surprisingly pleasing and cohesive layout.
Among the modern buildings, the most notable are the Ambassador Auditorium and the Student Center and Hall of Administration, which are arranged around a central reflecting pool and sculpture. The Auditorium was at one time one of the preeminent performance spaces in the West, with musical greats like Luciano Pavarotti, Yo-Yo Ma, and Ella Fitzgerald gracing its stage.
When the college closed in 1997, the future of the campus and its buildings was left in limbo. The HRock Church bought the Auditorium, saving it from the wrecking ball, but as part of a residential redevelopment scheme and, despite the protests of preservationists, demolition has begun on some buildings on the Orange Grove side of the campus.