Calvary Church in Golden

We are wrapping up this week’s examination of religious architecture with Calvary Church in Golden.  Built on a rise at the corner of 13th Street and Arapahoe Street, Calvary Church is one of the oldest buildings in Golden and is supposedly the oldest continuously used Episcopal church in Colorado.  Construction began in late 1867 and was completed the following year.


Calvary Church was largely a product of its community.  The land upon which it was constructed was donated by Golden resident and entrepreneur William A.H. Loveland, and money for its construction was donated by local citizens.


It was built using a soft, pressed brick that varies between deep orangish-red and a light brown color.  Note the irregularity of the brick sizes and the ripples in the brick’s texture where the clay was hand pressed into each mold.  The brick may have been locally made, as the interior floor tiles were supplied by a local pottery.  However, early issues of the Rocky Mountain News lament the fact that there were few brick manufacturers in the area.


The main entrance to the church, located up a rise of stairs, has a wood door and a transom framed by a pointed Gothic arch.  The arch is accented by cream-colored sandstone units with a simple projecting keystone and carved impost blocks at the base of the arch.  Similar details frame the top of each window opening.


The foundation was built using a buff-colored sandstone that contained iron.  Over time, several foundation stones have turned an orange or brown color from corrosion of the natural iron inclusions in the stone.


This simple building is architecturally significant when you think about the history of Golden.  The area was settled in 1859, and Golden was incorporated in 1870 two years after the completion of Calvary Church.  In the early 1860s, few permanent structures existed in Golden, yet by 1867 the community came together to sponsor and build this stunning little church.  We are fortunate that the church is still standing to be used and admired by generations to come.

The Historic Masonry of the Dora Moore School

As we continue our Denver Back to School Week, we are going to examine the Dora Moore School in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.


This  historic building is one of the oldest Denver school buildings still in use today.  It was designed by Robert S. Roeschlaub, Colorado’s first licensed architect and the chief architect in the late 1800s for what is now the Denver Public School system.  History Colorado has a great list of Roeschlaub’s contributions to Denver’s architecture [pdf] from the 1870s through his retirement in 1912.  During his career, he designed houses, the Central City Opera House, commercial buildings, and nearly all of Denver’s early school buildings.  Most of his buildings have been demolished but many that survive are listed on the National Register, including the Dora Moore School. (It is also a city landmark.)

The Dora Moore School was constructed between 1889 and 1890, and is a rectangular building with chamfered entrance bays at each corner.  It was originally called the Corona School but its name was changed in 1929 to thank former teacher and principal Dora M. Moore for thirty-five years of service to the school.  If you look closely, you can see the ghost of the old school name in the terra cotta frieze, shown below.


The school building was constructed with soft, pressed brick, a sandstone water table and trim, and terra-cotta ornament.  Most of the terra cotta is located at the second story, but the arched entry at each chamfered corner of the building has an ornate terra-cotta surround.  The decoration in the terra cotta is mainly of foliage, but a little girl’s head projects from the left side of the arch, and a little boy’s head from the right side of the arch.  These details are so charming.

DoraMooredetail1     DoraMooredetail2


LaCombe Power Plant

Although this blog is about masonry, today we are going to briefly explore the history of electric power in Denver thanks to this wonderful complex of buildings, the LaCombe Power Plant.


Situated on the east bank of the South Platte River, the LaCombe Power Plant is visible from the South Platte Trail. (It is currently known as the Zuni Generating Station and is owned by Xcel Energy.) The plant is cluster of utilitarian structures, but I noticed right away that some of the buildings are quite old.  It turns out that one in particular is very old.

In 1900, the City of Denver granted Charles F. LaCombe and his LaCombe Electric Company the right to build an electric power plant on the east bank of the South Platte River just south of 14th Avenue.(1)  Until this date, the Denver Consolidated Gas and Electric Company had a monopoly on electric production and distribution in the city.  Not only did the City of Denver break the electric monopoly, but they also gave LaCombe funds to assist with construction of the new plant.  The plant would include a municipal arc light plant and a commercial incandescent and power plant, both of which were to be sold to the City within five to twenty years.

LaCombe wasn’t a newcomer to the electric business; he was president of the Mountain Electric Company, a local representative of the Western Electric Company of Chicago and the Westinghouse Company of New York.  He began work on the new plant within 30 days of the grant, and the facility started operations in April 1901.

According to a May 11, 1901 article in Western Electrician, the original LaCombe Power Plant had two adjacent buildings, as required: one for commercial power generation, the other for arc lighting.(2)  Both buildings were constructed of pressed brick and were built along the river to take advantage of the water for steam generation.  The 1901 photo, below, was taken from across the Platte River looking east.  The arc light building is to the right, and the commercial plant is to the left.