Temple Emanuel

Although I haven’t blogged much in the past few months, I have been busy taking photographs and stumbling across incredible masonry buildings in Denver and the Front Range.  Take Temple Emanuel, for example, in Denver’s Uptown neighborhood.  The former Temple Emanuel synagogue at 16th Ave and Pearl Street was once the home of Denver’s oldest Jewish Congregation.  Originally constructed between 1898 and 1899 with a large addition in 1924, Temple Emanuel is reportedly the only Moorish- and Turkish-Revival style synagogue in Colorado (according to the building’s National Register nomination [pdf]).

TempleEmanuel

Designed by architect John J. Humphreys of Wendell & Humphreys Architects, the original portion of the building includes the raised entrance and two Turkish-style towers.  The synagogue was constructed using simple buff brick, but laid with a projecting horizontal stripe pattern at the front facade on Pearl Street.

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I am fond of the complexity of the masonry at the entrance.  The carved wooden doors are framed by paired stone columns with ornate capitals, and smooth-cut buff stone, which is possibly a sandstone but more likely is Indiana limestone.  A Moorish-style arched, leaded-glass transom rises above the stone lintel on which the synagogue’s name is carved.  More smooth-cut stone and buff brick surround the pointed, horseshoe-arched transom, and two rondels flank the top of the entry arch.  These rondels contain inset Stars of David that were probably made of limestone and painted stucco or glazed tiles.  Rising above the entrance and transom are six thin leaded-glass windows that also have Moorish-style influences in their shape and motifs.  The entire window and door enframement is then surrounded by two types of molded brick, one with a checkerboard pattern and another with an ogee frame.

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The top of the building has an ornate, applied metal cornice, and a rose window in the parapet.  Unfortunately, extensive soiling of the masonry accentuates the horizontal stripe pattern of the brick and makes the stone surrounding the entrance look grayer than it originally would have.  The metal cornice is also severely deteriorated, with extensive corrosion evident especially at the top left side in the photo above.

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Two Turkish-style minaret towers flank the original portion of the building.  These octagonal towers were built with buff brick and have thin horizontal openings capped by pointed arches.  I originally thought the top of the towers were made of carved stone, but upon closer inspection, I realized that like the cornice, they are made of molded sheet metal.  Corrosion has taken its toll and some of the ornament is lost and several railings are displaced.  However, the original form of the minarets is still quite legible despite the deterioration.

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The large addition to the south of the building was constructed in 1924 and nearly doubled the size of the synagogue.  The addition was designed by Thielman Robert Wieger, an apprentice of Humphreys’, who gave the addition an architectural style nearly identical to the original building.  Seen above with the paired spires of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at the left, the addition can be differentiated from the original by its shorter tower and its ever-so-slightly more modest entrance.  The Denver Public Library has two wonderful photographs of the building taken before and after the construction of the addition to help you understand the construction chronology of the building.

The synagogue was the third home of Congregation Temple Emanuel, Denver’s oldest Reform Jewish congregation [pdf].  It was constructed at the southwest corner of 16th Avenue and Pearl Street after a fire destroyed the congregation’s second synagogue at 24th and Curtis Streets in 1897.  Members of the congregation in the late 1800s included the political, economic and cultural elite of Denver, including Simon Guggenheim, who became a U.S. Senator; Philip Trounstine, Denver’s first fire chief; John Elsner, who founded Denver’s first hospital; and David May, proprietor of May’s Department Store.  Congregation Temple Emanuel used the synagogue until 1957, when they sold the building to the First Southern Baptist Church.  Later congregations who used the building include the LovingWay Pentecostal Church and Pathways Church.  The building is now owned by the Denver Community Church.

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Weicker Depository

If you drive east on Colfax Avenue past Capitol Hill, you might come across a Florentine, Italian-Renaissance Revival style tower that looks completely out of place.  Not only is it taller than all of its neighbors, but its style is unlike anything in Denver.

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This building at East Colfax and Vine Street was built as a warehouse for the Weicker Transfer and Storage Company in 1925.  Known as the Weicker Depository, it was designed by architects William E. and Arthur A. Fischer [pdf].  According to Thomas J. Noel’s book, Buildings of Colorado, the Weicker Depository was so admired upon its completion that it was written up in Architectural Record and in Western Architect and Engineer.

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The two-story base of the building is clad with travertine, most likely Colorado travertine.  The stone is heavily soiled and has been painted over with a gray-colored paint along the base, making the building look incredibly run down.  But most of the building’s original steel windows remain at the base and upper floors, and you can still see many of the original wrought-iron railings and window grilles.

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Travertine is an interesting material.  It is made of calcium carbonate, like limestone and marble, but it is formed when calcium carbonate layers build up in hot springs.  If you can picture the thermal pools at Yellowstone that have those ‘terraces’ of white or yellowish deposits – you’re watching travertine being created.  It eventually forms into a stone once the hot spring disappears and the layers cool and compress.  Travertine often has a highly porous and rippled texture due to the decay of algae and other bacteria that die when the calcium carbonate layers cool to form stone.  You can see the highly porous stone and the rippled texture more clearly in the photo above.

The upper stories of the Weicker Depository are clad with red brick laid in a really odd pattern known as Monk bond.  It has two stretcher bricks followed by a header brick, all in a repeating pattern.  It is a very old fashioned style of brick coursing that is more common in Europe than it is here in the States.  Note also the corbelled brick used to create the projecting arches at the eighth floor, and the crenelation at the parapet.

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The entire building resembles a watered-down version of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, minus the bell tower, of course.

1926storageThe Weicker Depository has little changed over the past ninety years, as you can see from this 1926 advertisement in The Rotarian.  A few doors have been removed from the ground floor, and their openings infilled with masonry.  But otherwise, it is largely intact.  (N.B.: The 1926 Rotary convention was held in Downtown Denver, so the May 1926 issue of The Rotarian contains numerous advertisements for Denver buildings and businesses. It’s worth a look, if you’re interested in old advertisements.  You can access it via Google Books here.)

The Denver Public Library’s Western History Collection has a wonderful photograph of the base of the Weicker Depository taken in 1928.  I cannot include the photo itself for copyright reasons, but if you click on the link you’ll notice the wonderful lanterns between each shallow, Gothic-inspired ogee arch at the ground floor.  There was even a cast metal (probably bronze or brass) clock mounted to the corner of the building!  The base of the Weicker Depository certainly looks much better than it does today in its incarnation as a self-storage facility.

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The Masonry of Nürnberg

To wrap up our trip to Germany, we are going to examine the masonry of Nürnberg.  Our friends took us on a day trip to Nürnberg to show us the sights of the city.  We started at the Kaiserberg Nürnberg, also known as Nuremberg Castle.

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Parts of the castle were erected beginning in the 1100s with additions over the centuries.  It has three courtyards containing buildings of increasing importance as you move deeper into the castle.  The photo above is from the “outer courtyard”, which is actually the middle courtyard.  The two-story building at the left is the “deep well” and dates to 1563.  It supplied all of the castle’s water, which was important if the castle was under siege.  The tower at the center is the Sinwell Tower, which was noted for its circular shape.  It is the tallest tower at the castle and probably served primarily as a lookout post.  The entire castle complex was constructed on top of a sandstone hill; many of the stones used to build the castle appear to be sandstone as well.  Much of the castle was damaged during World War II bombing raids, but following the war it was meticulously reconstructed using the original stone wherever possible.

The base of the castle has several cellars that were used to store supplies over the centuries.  During World War II, the Nazi party stored confiscated art in one of these bunkers, which is now a museum.  (Just as described in the Monuments Men.)

Nurnberg-artbunker

To the southwest of the castle is a square containing the Albrecht Dürer House, where the famed engraver lived between 1509 and 1528.  The house, which dates to the 1400s, is visible in the center of the photo.  Like other buildings in Nürnberg, it was heavily damaged during WWII and was partially rebuilt in the late 1940s.

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Nürnberg has some beautiful stone churches, and St. Sebaldus Church (Sebalduskirche in German) is no exception.  Currently a Lutheran Church, St. Sebaldus was begun in the 1200s but was altered during the 14th and 15th centuries to update the exterior with a Gothic design.  The wikipedia page for the church shows the architectural chronology of the building using 3D models.  The towers, seen below, date to the 15th century.

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It was impossible to get the entire church in a single photograph, but the one below of the side of the church tells a more complete story of the church’s construction.  The upper story, just below the red tile roof, is part of the original thirteenth-century Romanesque church. The Gothic-style aisle at the first floor dates to the early fourteenth century.  And the chancel just visible at far left was constructed in the late fourteenth century.

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Another beautiful church is St. Lorenz, which was constructed in the early 1400s.  Like St. Sebaldus, it has been an important Lutheran church since the Reformation.

Nurnberg-StLorenzChurch

St. Lorenz, like St. Sebaldus, was heavily damaged during Allied bombing raids in World War II, but both were rebuilt and restored in the late 1940s and 1950s.  The restoration of these buildings is impressive, as you would be hard pressed to find portions that look like they were built in the twentieth century.

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Nürnberg also has several bridges crossing the river Pegnitz.  Bridges are usually the first thing to be destroyed during wartime, so I would guess most of the bridges are reconstructions.  This building straddles the river and is made of the same pinkish-gray sandstone that you see all over Nürnberg.

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My favorite bridge was the Henkersteg, or hangman’s bridge.  A wooden foot bridge was built in this location in 1457, but was rebuilt five times between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries.  It was destroyed during World War II and was rebuilt in the late 1950s.

Nurnberg-henkersteg

The hangman’s bridge is connected to the hangman’s tower, below right, which housed the execution chamber and the hangman’s residence.  It was built in the early fourteenth century, with modifications in 1400, and was probably heavily restored after World War II.

Nurnberg-hangmanstower

Our last stop on this masonry tour of Nürnberg is the weißer turm, or the white tower.  It looks pink with a gray foundation today, but presumably it was painted or stuccoed white at some point in its history.  Originally a toll gate, it was completed in 1250 and was part of the last city wall of Nürnberg.  This imposing tower is now a U-bahn station – the best looking subway station I have ever seen.

Nurnberg-weissenturm

And although it’s not masonry, there is an interesting bronze fountain at the base of the weißer turm.  It was designed by sculptor Jürgen Weber and was installed in 1984.  Called the Ehekarussell, or marriage fountain, it depicts the ups and downs of a marriage.  Clearly the marriage didn’t end well.

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