Scottish Rite Masonic Temple

The Scottish Rite Masonic Temple is a prominent, domed structure on Capitol Hill diagonally across from the State Capitol Building.  Technically Colorado Consistory Number 1, the Scottish Rite temple is the home of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in Colorado.  Constructed between 1923 and 1925, the temple was designed by Denver architect William N. Bowman, who was a member of the consistory before his death in 1944.  Bowman designed several other Masonic temples in Colorado, but is most famous for the Telephone Building on 14th Street and the State Office Building on Colfax at Sherman Street.

This neo-classical structure was constructed of buff-colored glazed terra cotta with a mottled finish, similar to the appearance of limestone or buff sandstone.  It also has a pink-granite base and a white, membrane-covered dome that was recently repaired.

Bowman originally designed a larger, more ornately-decorated building for the site, but redesigned the building to be the current three-story structure.  A historic photograph of the Scottish Rite temple taken shortly after it was constructed, which you can find on the Denver Public Library’s website, there have been very few changes made to the building.  It appears that the dome was originally clad with a slate shingles or perhaps flat, interlocking clay tile, but otherwise the exterior remains quite similar to its original construction.

There are very few windows on the building, and normally a building with large expanses of flat masonry would look odd and fortress-like, but instead the few, delicately detailed windows and the simple Classical ornament of the Scottish Rite temple lend it an appearance of elegant grandeur.  Take the entry, for example; accessed via a wide staircase of pink granite, the imposing bronze doors are flanked by enormous fluted terra-cotta columns and a heavy entablature.  The flat terra cotta surrounding the entry is slightly recessed from the rest of the facade, which lends the entry greater prominence. It is truly an elegant composition.

Several masonic symbols are present on the exterior of the Scottish Rite temple, including a double-headed eagle at the crest of the western pediment.  The metal eagles carry a pyramid with the number 32 on their heads.  According to Colorado Consistory No. 1, the double-headed eagle is meant to “symbolize the double jurisdiction of the Council–one which looked both to the East and to the West”.  The triangle is a symbol of the divinity, and 32 refers to the 32nd degree, the highest degree a member may attain (except the 33rd degree, which is honorary).

The Scottish Rite temple provides an elegantly curved corner where it meets the right angles of Grant Street and 14th Avenue.  Like the rest of the building, the corner has restrained ornament, including a band of terra-cotta flowers and acanthus leaves shown in the bottom of the photo above, and a simple balustrade at the parapet.  I was curious about the accretion at the cornice until I saw the frenzied activities of bees at their hive over the summer.

I was also intrigued by a color change in the terra cotta a few courses up from the granite base, which you can see below.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is an anti-graffiti coating that was applied to the terra cotta along the sidewalk to protect it from spray paint.  Unfortunately it has become discolored over time, or perhaps there was a chemical reaction with the glaze of the terra cotta that darkened the coating.  Either way, it creates an interesting, though unfortunate, datum line across the base of the building.

The Masonry of Veterans Day

Veterans Day has been celebrated in the United States since 1954, but it was known as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day since Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th a Federal holiday in 1919.  On this Veterans Day 2014, the Masonry of Denver would like to celebrate the men and women who served the United States in times of war and peace.  I am especially grateful for the service of my grandfathers, uncles, and cousins; my father-in-law; and many friends.  Thank you all for your service.

So how does masonry play into the lives of American veterans?  A walk through any military cemetery will give you a hint.  Every man and woman who serves in the United States military is eligible to receive a free military grave marker from the Department of Veterans Affairs, regardless of where they are buried.  The VA issues both flat cemetery markers and upright head stones.  The flat markers, which are installed nearly flush to the ground, are available in marble, granite and bronze.  Upright headstones are available in marble and granite.

Marble is by far the most common military headstone marker, and the military only uses Danby marble quarried from Vermont.  It is an exceptionally pure, white stone, and is readily available due to a large vein of marble of varying quality that runs up the east side of the Hudson River from Manhattan to the Canadian border.  Vermont marble is typically a very high quality, white or whitish gray marble, while the marble historically quarried in upper Manhattan and southern Westchester County is a granular, lesser quality pinkish tan stone.  The quality of the stone improves the farther north one travels up the Hudson River.


VA-issued upright grave markers are 42 inches long, 13 inches wide and 4 inches deep, though the depth of their installation varies.  The veterans markers in the photo above appear to have been set several feet into the ground.  Inscriptions typically carved into headstones by the VA include the veteran’s name, rank, location of service, the war or wars in which he or she fought, the branch of the military in which he or she served, and the veteran’s birth and death dates.  Families may purchase additional inscriptions if there is room on the grave marker.  Finally, each veteran may have a symbol of their faith carved into the top portion of the grave stone.  Very few religious symbols were available, such as the Christian or Catholic crosses in the photo above, but over the years the VA has extended their recognized emblems to include 61 religious symbols.

Cemeteries all over Colorado have markers noting the grave of United States veterans.  I came upon three large areas for military memorials in Fairmount Cemetery in Denver several weeks ago when I visited.  The one closest to the cemetery entrance marks the graves of the Colorado Volunteers.  The monument itself is made of a gray granite with a bronze statue, but the grave markers arrayed in a circle around the monument are all white marble.  You will notice that their inscriptions are raised letters in a recessed shield.  This indicates the graves of veterans who served during the Civil War or the Spanish-American War, or during peace time before World War I.  Most of these grave markers represent veterans of the Spanish-American War.

CO Vols Memorial

A second military memorial, called the Garden of Honor, sits just northeast of the Colorado Volunteers memorial.  The Garden of Honor is simple and elegant, with upright marble headstones arranged in a circle around the United States flag.  All of the headstones face inward toward the flag, as opposed to the Colorado Volunteers memorial, whose headstones face outward.

Circle memorial

The third military memorial at Fairmount Cemetery commemorates Lieutenant Frances Brown Lowry, who served in World War I and died when his plane was shot down over France in 1918.  The Lowry memorial marks the graves of members who served in Lowry’s battalion, as well as other veterans of World War I.  The memorial, created in 1921, is made of a light granite with a bronze dough-boy statue.

Lowry Memorial

Once again, we would like to thank all of the men and women who have served the United States military.

The Granite Building

I fell in love with the Granite Building over the summer, but just now got around to looking into its history.  I’m so glad I did!  According to the Denver Landmarks designation for the Larimer Square Historic District [pdf], Denver began on the site of the Granite Building.  No, the Granite Building isn’t the first building built in Denver, but it sits on the land on which William H. Larimer, Jr. built his log cabin in 1858.  The site at the northeast corner of 15th and Larimer Street soon became the center of Denver City, and was therefore a lucrative development site.  By 1882, the site’s owners George W. and Willam N. Clayton, erected the four-story granite building that stands on the site now.


The Granite Building was originally constructed to house the M.J. McNamara Dry Goods Company, and was nicknamed the Granite Building fairly soon after it was erected.  It later housed a furniture business, architecture offices and building suppliers, and was supposedly the original office of the Denver Post.  By the 1910s, the Granite Building had become a boarding house and then a flophouse.  In 1965 it was purchased as part of Larimer Square and was fully restored by 1970.  It currently houses offices, restaurants on the ground floor, and a comedy club in the basement.  A great historic photo of the building can be found in the Western History Collection of the Denver Public Library.


The Granite Building was built using all local masonry materials, as well as cast-iron columns on the interior made by the Colorado Iron Works.  Although there is no record of who supplied the granite, it is probably Pikes Peak Granite quarried in the South Platte Canyon near Buffalo Creek.  It has a pinkish gray color and was installed in rusticated blocks, with smooth-cut blocks at window spandrels.  However, the Granite Building isn’t entirely made of granite.  Two different colors of sandstone – red and beige – provide horizontal and vertical ornament on the building.  Both sandstones may have been quarried from the hogbacks along the Front Range, the location of many sandstone quarries between Manintou Springs and Fort Collins.  Below is a detail of the granite and sandstone used at the top of the building, plus the painted sheet-metal cornice.


We are lucky that development pressures in the first half of the twentieth century were low enough that the Granite Building was not demolished for a more modern structure.  And thanks to Dana Crawford and her associates, the building and its neighbors were brought back to life in the 1960s.  The Granite Building is part of a Denver landmark district and is also on the National Register of Historic Places, and should be around for generations to come.