Historic and holy

Many area houses of worship shine with community importance

Posted 4/10/16

Throughout human history, places of worship have been some of the largest, most important, and most enduring structures ever built. The pyramids of Giza, Stonehenge, Angkor Wat, and the grand cathedrals of Europe — they all stand in testament to …

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Historic and holy

Many area houses of worship shine with community importance

Posted

Throughout human history, places of worship have been some of the largest, most important, and most enduring structures ever built. The pyramids of Giza, Stonehenge, Angkor Wat, and the grand cathedrals of Europe — they all stand in testament to the power of faith, and tell us much about the people who built them.

Our local communities are no different, with many of the older churches in the area offering an enduring look back at the metro area’s founding. Among the more historically significant religious sites in Adams and Jefferson counties are churches that helped cities and the state grow, served as schools, healed the sick, and in one case even served as a rally point for opposing the Ku Klux Klan. In early Westminster and Broomfield, churches began out of classrooms, uprooting and moving and taking with them pieces of their history as the region flourished and population boomed following not one, but two World Wars.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Welby

2361 E 78th Ave., Denver (Welby)

Built: 1912

In November 1911, 40 families in the Welby vegetable farming area — many of them Italian farmers who would meet for worship at a local grocery store — got together to discuss building a Catholic church. A month later, one acre of land was purchased from the Denver-Laramie Railroad and work began.

In 2012, parishioners celebrated 100 years as Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church with a “Centennial Celebration” Mass.

Originally built for $1,300, a vestibule was added in 1941, along with the west bell tower. That vestibule and tower would be all that remained when the rest of the church was torn down in 1947. It wasn’t until the freeze on building was lifted after World War II that a second bell tower was built, using several original items from the church.

Over the years, the church would add on a Catholic school (in 1920, the same year the church started its annual bazaar, which continues today), and later a gymnasium and a kitchen, the latter so, according to the church, “the women ... had some place to cook up Assumption’s famous spaghetti dinner” — another tradition that carries on annually.

Westminster Presbyterian Church

3990 W. 74th Ave., Westminster

Built: 1892

Westminster Presbyterian Church has a history older even than the city for which it’s named.

In the 1890s, a prominent New Yorker named Henry Mayhem visualized the concept of a university atop Crown Point, the highest point in what was then Arapahoe County (it would become Adams County in 1902). The village there at the time was called DeSpain Junction and would later become Harris Park or Harris, before incorporating as Westminster in 1911.

As Denver thrived about 10 miles away, Mayhem wanted a college to rival those in the growing metropolis. Seeking financial help from the Presbytery of Denver and others, the “Princeton of the West” was conceived and called Westminster University.

While the school struggled to attract students, faculty members and others from the area around Westminster University began to meet for worship at the university and met Aug. 14, 1892, to sign a charter establishing the University Presbyterian Church of the Denver Presbytery. The church would long outlive the school, and of course preceded Westminster proper.

The first place of worship for the new congregation of University Presbyterian Church was near 80th and Bradburn Boulevard, less than a mile from where the next church was built, near 74th and Bradburn (razed in 1981), and where the newest church — dedicated in 1957 — stands today.

More than 50 church members and regular attendees were recognized as “history makers” in the Westminster centennial book “Westminster: The First 100 Years,” and the Westminster Presbyterian Church is now considered the Historical Church of Westminster.

Here are just a few of the more notable places of worship in Adams and Jefferson counties:

Broomfield United Methodist Church

545 W. 10th Ave., Broomfield

Built: 1888

A congregation of 12 founded the First Methodist Church of Broomfield in 1888 at Lorraine School, about a mile east of Wadsworth Avenue and a mile south of present Main Street. Services continued at the school until after 1900, when the congregation started meeting in a home on 120th Avenue, just west of Allison Street.

Despite sparse settlement at the time, a “cement block” church was built in 1908 and carried a small congregation through World War I before dedicating the Warren Chapel in 1921. Following a “baby boom” after the war, attendance at the church’s Sunday school became considerably more substantial.

The church underwent remodeling in 1934, getting bolstered with pieces from the Wesley Chapel at 120th Avenue and Huron Street. That chapel had been weathered and vandalized but builders were able to salvage some lumber and, more notably, 13 original stained glass windows, which remain a part of the present-day Broomfield United Methodist Church.

After a few more moves to adjust to Broomfield’s growing population, in 1983, a new sanctuary was constructed, and the stained glass windows from the old Wesley Chapel were restored and hung in the church in 1986. The congregation then moved into the new addition of the church in Christmas 1999. The addition included a sanctuary, family life center and a children’s education wing.

Calvary Episcopal Church

 1320 Arapahoe St., Golden

Built: 1867

The original chapel is believed to be the oldest continuously used church in Jefferson County, and the oldest continuously used Episcopal church in the state.

Reading through the history of this Golden church is like reading a Who’s Who of state history. The land for the building was donated by railroad magnate William Loveland. The pews and three of the stained glass windows were donated by brewery founder Adolph Coors and his wife, Louisa. Railroader and lawmaker Edward L. Berthoud and Golden Transcript founder George West served as members of the church’s first vestry.

The church was built under the direction of Bishop George Maxwell Randall, who would later help found what would become the Colorado School of Mines nearby.

The original brick Gothic Revival-style church, with its three crosses standing atop the hill, still serves as a place of worship, though the much-grown congregation has since added a more modern and much larger worship sanctuary on an adjacent lot.

Calvary and its membership helped to establish the first schools and charity organizations there, and has remained an active part of the Golden community for 149 years since.

Shrine of St. Anne Catholic Parish

 7555 Grant Place, Arvada

Built: 1922

The red brick landmark of St. Anne has been a focal point of the Arvada community since it’s creation. Dedicated on June 25, 1922. Built in honor of St. Anne de Beaupre, mother of the Virgin Mary, it was said to be the highest building in Jefferson County at that time. It is also said to be the reason Wadsworth Boulevard was originally paved between Denver and Arvada, to accommodate pilgrims coming to see the wrist bone relic of St. Anne, resting inside the bell tower shrine.

The Denver Catholic Register called the church “a gem.”

“While in one or two of its features, like the terra cotta work, the edifice almost approaches the bizarre, yet there is around it such an air of piety and true Catholic conservatism,” it states.

The decorative brick church had quite a rocky start however. The first pastor of St. Anne, Walter Grace, left in disgrace following a conviction on liquor charges during Prohibition. At the same time, the Ku Klux Klan was gaining strength in Colorado, and actively harassed Catholics, going so far as to burn crosses in front of the St. Anne parish. In 1925 several thousand Klansmen marched through Arvada to the front steps of the church.

Undaunted, more than 1,000 local Catholics organized a counter march a month later, walking from Regis College to St. Anne for a an outdoor Mass. That show of strength seemed to hasten the diminishing statewide influence of the Klan, and the harassment stopped.

The church parish remains active, founding a nearby elementary school in 1961, and remaining a source of faith and charity for Arvada’s Olde Town.

Issac Solomon Synagogue

 1600 Pierce St. in Lakewood on the RMCAD campus

Built: 1911 (rebuilt in 1926)

The Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design campus in Lakewood used to be something quite different — a refuge for tuberculosis patients.

The Jewish Consumptives’ Relief Society was founded in the area, because long before there was a cure for TB, it was believed that the crisp mountain air and sunshine of Colorado would ease the pain of patients.

The society would grow to become the largest free TB treatment facility in the world, with 34 buildings over 148 acres.

One of those buildings was the Isaac Solomon Synagogue, the spiritual center of the society campus. According to the Lakewood Historical Society, Isaac Solomon built the synagogue in 1911 in memory of his son, Jacob, who died of tuberculosis. The original synagogue burned, and the current synagogue was opened in 1926. Architecturally, the synagogue has a Moorish appearance, with red brick, many arches and terracotta. Gothic windows dot the exterior.

“RMCAD does not have any immediate plans for the synagogue, but students and faculty alike have a reverence for its importance in Denver’s history,” according to Meaghan Carabello, a spokeswoman for the college.

historic churches, Adams county, Jefferson county, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Broomfield United Methodist Church, Calvary Episcopal Church, Shrine of St. Anne Catholic Parish, Issac Solomon Synagogue,

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