LGBT role could lead to Landmark


LGBT role factor for Landmark designation for Unitarian church building.

Unitarian congregation at Capitol Hill building long supported LGBT rights.

Would be first historic Landmark for its history of being a LGBT rights champion.


The First Unitarian building in Capitol Hill could receive a Landmark historic designation from the Denver City Council. Congregation members have a history of being active in the LGBT rights community.

A church building in Capitol Hill could be the first building in the state to be designated as a historic landmark in part for its importance in the history of the LGBT rights movement.

The Denver City Council later this month will consider a historic landmark designation for the First Unitarian Society of Denver building at 1400 Lafayette St.

“Preserving sites like this helps us tell our city’s story – the whole story,” said Brad Buchanan, executive director of Denver Community Planning and Development.

“While Denver’s landmarks include buildings originally built by and for those with wealth and social status, they also include equally important places linked to people who may have been left out of the history textbooks,” Buchanan added.

A public hearing on the historic designation is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 22, during City Council’s normal weekly meeting. Anyone may attend and sign up to speak.

Denver’s Landmark Preservation Commission considered the designation at its July 5 meeting. The commission members found that the church building was eligible for designation.

To be eligible for historic preservation in Denver, a site must demonstrate significance in at least two of three categories: history, architecture and geography. 


A historic photo of the First Unitarian building in Capitol Hill.

Landmark Commission members found it met designation criteria in all three categories.

 The building has served as a gathering place for the advancement of social justice issues in Colorado for decades.

The site, whose architecture and geography also meet the city’s designation criteria, would be the first in Colorado to be recognized at the local, state or national level for pioneering role for LGBT rights 

The First Unitarian congregation has a long history of social justice work.

Congregation members have been on the forefront advocating women’s rights and suffrage, civil rights and immigration justice. The congregation has long welcomed social justice organizations that could find no other public venue for meetings or presentations.

 The congregation’s involvement in the LGBT rights movement began as early as the 1950s.

At a time when few were willing to open their doors to the gay community, First Unitarian offered support to the Mattachine Society.

The Mattachine Society was one of the first gay rights groups in the US. It provided space for organizers in the movement.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Unitarian building was a de facto headquarters of the Gay Coalition of Denver.

Today, it is known as The Center, a LGBT nonprofit, one block away from First Unitarian, at 1301 E. Colfax Ave.

The building itself has been occupied by the First Unitarian Society of Denver since 1958.


First Unitarian, staring in 2006, organized a “Side of Love” worship service, advocating for civil marriage as a civil right,  on the of the State Capitol building. This photo was taken in 2015. First Unitarian has a long history of advocating for LGBT rights.

 The Richardsonian Romanesque style building, constructed in the 1890s, has retained its architectural integrity.

It features wide rounded arches, recessed entryways, a dramatic rose window, and rough surface stone quarried in Castle Rock, Colorado.

 Its architecture and its prominent location at the corner of East 14th Avenue and Lafayette Street makes it a unique orienting feature in Capitol Hill.

Historic designation preserves a site while accommodating change in a way that’s sensitive to the historic context of a building or district.

Historic buildings undergo a city design review before  exterior alterations are made. This assures they are altered and modernized in ways that keep them useful and relevant, while respecting their character and integrity. Interior remodels are not subject to design review.

 Local historic landmarks and districts are eligible for grants from the Colorado State Historical Fund, as well as state tax credits.


Another view of the First Unitarian building. The building could be the first historic landmark in Colorado that received the designation in part because of its history of advocating for LGBT rights.

In Denver, historic preservation is a grassroots effort.

 Denver’s city government doesn’t typically pursue designations; they are brought forth by the people.

 An application to designate a structure as historic may be submitted by the property owner or by at least three members of the community.

 If approved, 1400 Lafayette will be Denver’s fifth historic designation in 2016.

For comparison, Denver has averaged one new landmark per year in the last five years. Earlier this year the National Western Stock Show Stadium Arena, the Emily Griffith Opportunity School, the South Lincoln Street Historic District and the house at 1899 York St. were all brought forth by their owners and designated as historic.

Interested in buying a home in Capitol Hill, or another Denver neighborhood? Please visit 8z Real Estate.

Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at is sponsored by 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.


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John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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