The First Church of Divine Science

The First Church of Divine Science in Denver is located at the northeast corner of 14th Avenue and Williams Street, just north of Cheesman Park.  Now known as the Althea Center for Engaged Spirituality, the church and its Denver congregants were important in the development of Divine Science.  Founded in 1885 in San Francisco by Malinda Cramer, the Church of Divine Science moved its headquarters to Denver after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.  Cramer first visited Colorado in 1887 to lecture on Divine Science and found an attentive audience in Denver, particularly in the Brooks sisters of Pueblo.  By 1898, Cramer’s followers founded the Colorado College of Divine Science, and a year later they founded the First Church of Divine Science in Denver.  From what I have read, Divine Science has similarities to Christian Science, but more information about the faith can be found here.

The First Church of Divine Science building was constructed in 1922 to accommodate the growing congregation in Denver.  The church has a circular colonnade at the corner entrance, which is flanked by two wings, both with a series of columns supporting a decorative frieze.  Large windows between the columns allow light into the sanctuary and offices.


The church was designed by Denver society architect, Jules Jacques Benois Benedict, often known as J.J.B. Benedict.  Benedict was a talented architect who also had a reputation for being moody and difficult to work with despite his creative genius.  He designed numerous residences for Denver’s elite, including the (demolished) Belmar mansion for May Bonfils Berryman.  He also designed commercial buildings and several structures for Denver’s city and mountain parks.  According to the National Register nomination for Benedict’s completed buildings [pdf], the First Church of Divine Science was Benedict’s first church commission.


The main body of the church is buff-colored stucco textured with small pebbles.  This is ornamented by beautiful buff and pale-blue glazed terra cotta at the rounded colonnade and on the flanking wings.  The National Register nomination [pdf] refers to a 1923 article in Architectural Record noting that the congregation requested classical ornament rather than more overtly religious symbolism.


You can see in the photo below that the architect made extensive use of floral patterns and depictions of fauna in the terra cotta, along with classical details such as Corinthian capitals, denticulated cornices, and antefixes.


The building is in remarkably good condition for having been constructed over 90 years ago.  There is a bit of deterioration at the textured stucco at the top of the building, but there is very little cracking or spalling of the terra cotta.  It is obvious that the church was a good steward of their property and has done a good job maintaining it over the years.

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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Fairplay School

This weekend, my husband and I went up to the mountains to check out the autumn colors.  We headed over Kenosha Pass, which was clogged with leaf peepers, and briefly stopped to admire the golden aspen.  But we were hungry, so we continued on to Fairplay for lunch.  We took a post-meal stroll through town and quickly discovered the historic Fairplay School, a beautiful stone schoolhouse tucked behind several modern brick additions.


The main entrance to the school is around the corner facing the newest addition.


FairplaySchoolstoneThe Fairplay School was constructed between 1880 and 1881, and is one of the oldest remaining school buildings [pdf] in Colorado.  It is on the Colorado Register of Historic Places, and is made of an irregularly grained red and pinkish-buff colored sandstone.  A sandstone quarry around Red Hill Pass, near Route 285 just northeast of Fairplay, supplied much of the local stone for the town.

If you look closely at the photo at left (you can enlarge it by clicking the photo), the foundation stones and water table are large, rough-cut pieces of red sandstone.  Before steel construction was popular, builders used stronger, denser stones at the bottom of a building to support the weight of the masonry walls and to reduce water infiltration.  The red sandstone may have been stronger and less permeable than the pinkish-buff sandstone used to building the rest of the wall.

It was also common for masonry walls to get lighter as they got taller to reduce the amount of weight being supported by the foundation.  It is hard to tell from the small photo, but the stones used to build the wall get smaller in size as from water table to cornice.  Red sandstone was also used at the corners to create quoins, and at the window sills and lintels.

Naturally, the Fairplay School has a cupola with a bell, and swallow nests at the cornice.  No historic school would be complete without them!