A Brief History of Calvary Church
Pre-history of the Golden Area
The valley where Golden sits at the mouth of Clear Creek Canyon is said to have been occupied by Native Americans, predominately Utes and Arapahoes, for over a thousand years. When news of the discovery of gold near Central City traveled back across the plains in 1859, it drew men and women who wanted to make their fortunes in the diggings and others who stood a better chance of making a fortune catering to miners’ needs.
Golden City is Born
Golden City, as it was then called, was settled mainly by pioneer businessmen who provided supplies and other services to miners and their families. These men and their families not only played an important role in the history of Colorado but also were instrumental in building Calvary Church. Several of these pioneers would serve also as members of its first vestry: George West, William A.H. Loveland, and Edward L. Berthoud.
Religion Comes to Golden
The first Golden religious service, in June 1859 in the Ford brothers’ gambling tents, was a great success, with the entire town population attending. They sat on whiskey kegs and sang best-loved hymns played on a little melodeon brought across the plains by ox teams.
As one of the first Christian missionaries to visit Golden, Episcopal priest Fr. John Kehler had an influence on the residents, holding the first Episcopal service in the spring of 1860. Fr. Kehler had arrived even before the Colorado territory was formed, and he organized the Church of St. John in the Wilderness in Denver, now the cathedral of the diocese.
In 1861 Bishop Joseph C. Talbot was consecrated Bishop of the Northwest or, as he termed it, “Bishop of the All Out Doors.” Finding five families of Episcopalians in the population of 100, he preached in Golden and confirmed a mother and daughter.
Golden Builds Calvary Church
In April 1867 Episcopalians in Golden learned that Bishop George Maxwell Randall, the new missionary Bishop of Colorado and Parts Adjacent, had big plans to build a fine church edifice on the town square. William Loveland donated the three lots for the new church, an individual gave $1,000 toward building materials, and a subsequent donation of $1,750 made by a woman from St. John’s Church in Elizabeth, New Jersey, completed the cost of the structure. Bishop Randall laid the church’s cornerstone on September 23, 1867, and newspaper accounts described the building as “the finest church in the territory.” The stained glass window above the altar depicting the second coming, and the windows at the back of the church came as gifts to the new little mission church from friends in Boston. The original floor was not made of wood but of various colors of tile made by the Golden City Pottery, and the first organ was donated by the Mite Society, a local women’s organization.
The church’s bell tower was added in 1870, and the Guild Hall (the attached small room with the fireplace and rooms above) was built in 1902. In 1909, Adolph and Louisa Coors and their daughter Bertha donated $600 to the church to repaint the interior and to install the present pews and choir stalls. Shortly thereafter, the north windows of the nave were replaced with stained glass, and the sanctuary was added. The parish hall and classrooms above were built in 1954.
The parish commissioned architects in 1964 to design an ultra-modern church building to be built south of the 1867 building, but the plans never became a reality. The current structure, although outgrown by the congregation, is a cherished building which has been placed on the National Historic Register.
A larger multipurpose building (the Great Hall) was finished in 2000 on adjacent property. Both the Great Hall and the Historic Church are used for regular worship.
The School of Mines Connection
On June 11, 1866, when the newly-consecrated Bishop Randall arrived in Golden, he noted immediately the lack of higher education facilities in Colorado. He soon planned a university that would include a school of mines to support the local industry, a secondary school (a “seminary”), and a school of theology. Appreciating Bishop Randall’s effort, the territorial legislature appropriated $3,872 for a special building, and Jarvis Hall was erected on the present site of the Lookout Mountain School.
In 1874, a bill was introduced in the legislature to deed the school to the territory, making it a Colorado educational institution. The faculties of Jarvis Hall and Matthews Hall (the theological school) moved to Denver, and the Colorado School of Mines relocated to its present campus.
Calvary Church in the Community
Calvary’s first rector, William Lynd, opened a combined grade school and high school to educate any member of the community, and so began a long history of Calvary’s involvement with the Golden community. In the 1960s, Calvary’s Episcopal Church Women founded the Christian Action Guild, now located on 14th Street, an ecumenical effort to distribute food, clothing, and other assistance to the poor in the area. Calvary presently hosts the Golden Rescue Fund and the Jefferson County Restorative Justice Center.
A Holy Place
Bishop George Randall wrote the following in a series of lectures in 1858: “When a worshipper enters the Church, he feels he is entering the house of God. There is to him a sanctity pertaining to it, which does not attach to any other place, since, when consecrated to the worship of God, it is ‘separated from all unhallowed, worldly, and common uses.’ He takes off his hat when he enters the door, and he does not put it on again until he passes out the door…On taking his seat, he bows his head and silently invokes God’s blessing.”
All who enter Calvary's buildings are invited to do the same. Please feel welcome to sit and pray or join us for worship.
Calvary's Historic Church is the oldest Episcopal church structure in Colorado that is still used for weekly worship.
From the past to the present…
Calvary Church remains
Faithful to Jesus Christ
Faithful in holy worship
Faithful to the Word of God
Faithful stewards of all that God has given us
Faithful servants to one another and to the community
About the Stained Glass Windows...
Please click here to read Through Glass, Darkly:
The Stained Glass of Calvary Episcopal Church by Pat Killian.
About the stencils…
The ongoing interior work of the church constitutes an interpretive restoration of historic ecclesiastical ornament. The designs are drawn from the late 19th century English/American aesthetic movement.
The goal is to wed appropriate period ornament to the architectural elements of the church, thereby allowing the interior to attain an historical and architectural unity. The four painted figures behind the altar area Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene.
To tour the church…
When it is locked, inquire at the church office on Arapahoe street midway between 13th and 14th streets.