The Rhyolite of Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church

This week we are going to look at some of Denver’s incredible churches.  The first one is my favorite church in Denver: Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, at the corner of Broadway and East 18th Avenue.


I first saw this church in 2010 when I visited Denver for the Association for Preservation Technology Annual Meeting.  Trinity is a gorgeous pink and gray church that sits in a sort of no-man’s land of parking lots surrounded by skyscrapers.  Here is another view of the church looking southeast.


Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church was designed by architect Robert R. Roeschlaub and constructed in 1887.  Roeschlaub’s name may sound familiar to you because he designed the Dora Moore School on Capitol Hill, which we looked at last week.  The Dora Moore School couldn’t be more different from Trinity Church in design and materials.


Trinity Church was constructed using Castle Rock rhyolite, which is a strong stone formed by compressed hot volcanic ash.  There is a particularly good vein of rhyolite in Castle Rock, as I discussed in the Three Stone Buildings post back in June.  This pinkish, grayish stone is typically quite durable.  It can be rusticated, smooth-cut, or carved into ornamental details.  All three of these treatments are found on the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church.

Rusticated stone, seen below, was cut into irregularly sized rectangular units and laid into the wall in horizontal bands.  The majority of the church has gray or pinkish-colored stone, while buff-colored stone was used as an accent.


You can see the buff-colored stones surrounding the church’s rose window in the photo below.  Different colors of rhyolite were also laid in a checkerboard pattern at the peak of the gables.


Smooth-cut stone, seen below, was cut into more regular units to form Gothic arches at the entries.  (The squat columns supporting the arches are polished granite, probably a Colorado Red granite from the Pinewood Springs area of Larimer County.)


Finally, intricately carved rhyolite was used around windows and at the roofline.  Decorative turrets flank the central gabled roof, and the square tower at the northwest corner has an elaborately carved cornice featuring a female’s head and stylized foliage.


This building is truly a masterwork of stone, and must have employed many stone carvers and masons when it was being erected.  I recently read on Denver Infill that there are a few new buildings being planned for some of the surrounding parking lots.  One can only hope that the design of these new buildings respects the historic architecture of the church and does not diminish our experience of the church in any way.

PS. If you ever have a chance to go inside the church, please do!  The interior sanctuary has incredible carved wood details and is illuminated by luminous, polychrome leaded glass.  The church is equally impressive on the inside and out.