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.