The oldest church in Denver’s Westside neighborhood will become the city’s 350th landmark, local lawmakers decided Monday.
The Smith Chapel at 910 Galapago Street was built with rhyolite stone quarried from Castle Rock and completed in 1882 in the Gothic Revival style of architecture typical of the era. The church towers over one of Denver’s oldest residential neighborhoods, La Alma-Lincoln Park, and serves as an emblem of the local Chicano movement.
The Denver City Council voted unanimously Monday to preserve the structure, the first-ever property designated under the city’s new cultural criteria.
Prior to the update to Denver’s Landmarks Preservation Ordinance in November 2019 — which changed the way new local landmarks are chosen and approved — potential landmarks were vetted based on history, location, and history. architecture and geography, and had to show prominence in at least two of these categories. Now, the updated checklist also makes it possible to rate structures according to their cultural significance.
“When the city revised our Historic Preservation Ordinance last year, being able to preserve places like Smith’s Chapel that are rich in history and significance was exactly what we hoped for,” said Laura Aldrete, manager. of Denver Community Planning and Development, in a statement. . “Including cultural criteria in the designation process allows us to go beyond what the history books reflect, to honor and conserve those places that are part of the fabric and evolution of a community.”
Between the 1960s and 1980s, Smith’s Chapel became the home of the Denver Inner City Parish and served as a sanctuary for the Chicano community to gather and organize their calls for social justice.
The structure also became a haven during the West High School protests of 1969, when – after years of unequal treatment – students began staging regular walkouts to protest unequal treatment and were met with tear gas, beatings and arrests by the police.
Smith’s Chapel served as a rallying point for the leader of the Justice Crusade, Rudolfo “Corky” Gonzales, and other local leaders, including Gloria Leyba, one of the first Latinas to serve in the United States House of Representatives. Colorado.
The chapel is also “directly linked” to the development of the La Alma-Lincoln Park neighborhood, according to CPD. In 1881, famed Denver businessman John W. Smith donated four nearby lots, along with $10,000 in design and construction costs, for a chapel at the church for the Evangelicals. United Brethren.
“As a savvy investor, it’s likely that Smith saw the church as a way to attract both parishioners and other potential residents to that side of the neighborhood,” the planners explained.
Within a decade or so, the area was a “dense and prosperous” neighborhood, according to CPD, with room to grow.
In recent years, the structure has changed from a church to a school to an unused and empty building. In July 2019, the property was purchased for $1.1 million by Galapago Commercial LLC.
This group was formed by Matt Slaby, a Denver photographer, who said Monday night that he planned to turn the building into offices, part of which would be used by his company Luceo.