Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Trinity United Methodist Church
Trinity United Methodist's history spans the history of Colorado. Denver City Methodist Episcopal Mission, the organization that would become Trinity United Methodist, was established on August 2nd, 1859, less than one year after the Russell Party had established the Auraria settlement on the shores of Cherry Creek. The organization began as a frontier church, led by 23-year old Jacob Adriance, a probationary minister who had been sent to Denver by Bishop Levi Scott of Kansas.
The congregation was largely static until February 28th, 1861, when Colorado became a federally recognized territory. Shortly after that Auraria and Denver City were incorporated into a single community and the area began to show signs of rapid growth. Aware of the potential for the growth of the church, Bishop Edward Ames arrived from Indianapolis and established the Rocky Mountain Conference of the Methodist Church. Seeing the need for a proper and respectable church building he promised $1,000 of his own money if the congregation could build and pay for a new church by January 1, 1865. Then governor of Colorado, and former church member, John Evans made a matching donation, offering his own money to the church if they could complete the work on time. With the goal of building a "substantial brick church eligibly located in the city," the congregation purchased a lot on the corner of 14th and Lawrence Street. The church was finished in 1864 at a total cost of $23,000.
Denver continued to grow and develop and the Lawrence Street Church faced difficult changes over the next two decades. Many of the churches founding members had opted to move to the newly built suburbs around Denver and the congregation had shrunk. In debt and with the potential to close the church doors hanging over them, the congregation decided to move. Getting loans and relying heavily on donations from congregation members they purchased four lots on the corner of 18th and Broadway. In July of 1886 Reverend Henry Augustus Buchtel arrived in Denver to take charge of the congregation. Uniting the congregation with a shared goal of giving their church a new home he began making plans to construct a new church building. Due to the new minister's energy and drive, by November 16th, 1886, over half of the funding for the new church had been donated and Robert S. Roeschlaub, Colorado's first licensed architect, had been hired to design and build the new church.
The church was completed in less than two years, with a capacity crowd attending services on December 23rd, 1888. The church is a landmark in what is considered Modern Gothic architecture. The exterior incorporates many elements of traditional Gothic architecture, while the interior is a modern amphitheater. The building is constructed from local sandstone and Castle Rock rhyolite and reflects Roeschlaub's intentions to stay true to the tenets of the Arts and Crafts Movement, using locally sourced materials that reflect the surroundings of the building. The literal high point of the building is the spire, standing 183 feet, and 7-1/2 inches. It was one of the tallest stone structures in the United States at its time of completion.
Trinity Methodist Church also houses one of the largest 19th century pipe organs that is still in use. Designed, built, and installed by New York's Roosevelt Organ Works, the finished product cost roughly $30,000 in 1887. The organ, No. 308 on Roosevelt's records, was powered by a dynamo in the church's basement, a curiosity since electricity had not yet come to the rest of the city. The dynamo was powered by a waterwheel, turned by a natural spring that had been discovered in the church's basement. The organ uses 4,202 pipes, ranging in size from less than one inch to thirty-two feet, and made of a number of materials including pine, mahogany, a number of different hardwoods, zinc, tin, and lead.
The building also houses an impressive collection of stained glass, nearly all originally designed by Healy and Millett of Chicago, and the J & R Lamb Company of New York. Since the church's construction the congregation has relied heavily on the Watkins Stained Glass company of Englewood, CO. Four generations of Watkins family members have maintained and repaired Trinity's stained glass windows.
This is an incredibly beautiful building that has been utterly swallowed by downtown Denver. There are skyscrapers on every side, multi-story parking garages, busy streets, and pay-to-park lots on every side. The building is still there though, and looks just as good as it always has.
Getting There By Bike...
I approached the building on 18th, after turning off of Sherman. The area around the church is filled with one-way streets and can be very heavily trafficked during the day. There are a number of ways to get here by bike, and Google Maps knows them all. My only caveat would be that this might not be the best place to ride a bike unless you are comfortable and familiar with riding in traffic.
Trinity United Methodist Church is also directly across the street from the Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, another historic site that's worth a visit.