Unitarian church building receives landmark status.
Congregation of First Unitarian Society of Denver building leader in LGBT movement.
Unitarian building in Capitol Hill.
The Denver City Council this week voted to make the First Unitarian Society of Denver building in Capitol Hill a local historic landmark.
The building at 1400 Lafayette St., is the first in Colorado to be recognized at the local, state or national level for its importance in the history of the LGBT rights movement
The building has long served as a gathering place for the advancement of social justice issues in Colorado, including LGBT issues.
The site, whose architecture and geography also meet the city’s designation criteria, was approved by the council on Monday night.
The Richardsonian Romanesque style building, constructed in the 1890s, has retained its architectural integrity over the years.
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.
The First Unitarian congregation has a long history of social justice work, including involvement with women’s rights and suffrage, civil rights and immigration justice. Over the years, it has welcomed social justice organizations that could find no other public venue for their meetings or presentations.
“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 said.
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, one of the first gay rights groups in the United States, by providing space to organize.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Unitarian building was a de facto headquarters of the Gay Coalition of Denver, which is known today as The Center, a LGBT nonprofit located one block away from First Unitarian, on East Colfax Ave.
The building itself has been occupied by the First Unitarian Society of Denver since 1958.
To be eligible for historic preservation in Denver, a site must demonstrate significance in at least two of three categories: history, architecture and geography.
Denver’s Landmark Preservation Commission found that the church building was eligible for designation, meeting designation criteria in all three categories.
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