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In tin: 1850s. gold fever hit Colorado. Miners William
Greene Russell and Mis brothers had panned out seven
jp. ounces of gold in July of 1858. at the mouth of Dry
jg Creek on the South Platte. Inflated news of this modest
. strike sparked the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, a barrage of
some 35,000 fortune-seekers. /
The Russells founded the pioneer settlement of
Pf Auraria on November 1,1858, naming it after their
home town in Georgia. Auraria is a Latin word for gold.
i v As the tiny frontier town prospered, an intense
rivalry soon developed with an equally prosperous .A
neighbor across Cherry CreekDenver. Although
* Auraria boasted the first school, public house and ..
jjjlt library, the first stagecoach arrived in Denver circa Â§j
v 1859, thus establishing Denvers supremacy. On the
chilly, moonlit night of April 6, 1860, a ceremony on the
Larimer Street Bridge united the two towns. Auraria
;** then became west Denver, thriving for,decades with
attractive homes and flourishing businesses.
This early economic success allowed Auraria to
fi? support three Catholic churches within a six-block |
i radius, and an Episcopalian chapel that later became a .**:
t j Jewish synagogue. As Auraria slowly changed from a
middle class, residential neighborhood to a heavy
$ industry district, the needs of the people changed. By
the time the Auraria Campus was constructed in the
if early 1970s, only two of the Catholic churches.
r and the synagogue were still standing. St. Cajetans, ;
*. ; St. Elizabeths and Emmanuel still remain as an integral .
| part of the campus, and a reminder that Auraria was the :
place where Denver began.
Photo by Michael Gamer.
Photo manipulation by .Nancy H. Karnes.
a^j' 1F 'wife# *Â£&&&
% 1 a il
The building of the railroads brought a new
immigrant population into Denver. A number of these
newcomers were German Catholics: at least twelve
families settled on the west bank of Cherry Creek in the
1860s. They built their own church and parish school in
1868. They also pleaded with Bishop Joseph Machebeuf
for a German priest. In August of 1879, the foundation
of St. Elizabeths church was laid and construction
By the middle of September, the church was
partly completed and Mass was being celebrated inside.
In 1880, a parish school opened in the small brick
house once used as the parish rectory.
The original plan for St. Elizabeths had been to
make it the national parish for the Germans, but soon
Irish immigrants began to move into the neighborhood.
The Germans felt they had built the church, paid for its
construction, and that it belonged to them. The Irish
petitioned for their own church, and one year later
construction began on Saint Leo the Great Catholic
b St. Elizabeth's Church is an
: monument to the German immigrant,
very influentional in Denver's history:
On January 23, 1898, construction was completed
on the new church. That spring, the Bishop formally
dedicated St. Elizabeths, which measured 132 feet by
69 feet with its spire reaching 162 feet high. The church
was constructed of rusticated rhyolite (lava stone)
quarried at Castle Rock, its architecture predominately
Gothic with a few Romanesque touches. The interior of
the church featured statues and
woodwork carved in Germany.
Thanks to the polished
pleas of the Franciscans and the
generosity of Colorados German
Catholic community, St.
Elizabeths was completely debt
free by 1902, the first church in
the diocese to retire its debt.
In the autumn of 1907, the
ill-fated Father Leo Heinrichs
became Superior. On Sunday,
Febuary23, 1908, Father
Heinrichs celebrated six oclock
morning Mass. At Communion no
one paid much attention to
Giuseppe Alia, who knelt at the
altar rail to receive the host. Alia
jumped to his feet and pulled a
revolver out of his coat. Joseph
Hines, an altar boy assisting the priest, cried out a
warning, but it came too late. As Father Heinrichs
turned in the boys direction, Alia placed the gun
against the priests chest and fired. Moments later
Father Heinrichs died. He was only forty years old.
police officer, Daniel
Cronin, captured Alia
before he made it out
of the church. Alia
was found guilty and
executed July 15,
Gradually, the neighborhood began to decline
from middle-class homes to low income dwellings,
warehouses, and small industrial plants. Nonetheless,
St. Elizabeths remained a vital, growing parish.
The interior of St. Elizabeths was remodeled in
1968. Stained glass windows were imported from Paris,
a modern Venetian
glass tile mosaic
was hung behind the
altar, and a 12-foot
was set in place in
the choir loft.
installed on either
side of the altar, and
new chandeliers and
added, plus stations
of the cross in the
old German tradi-
tion. Twelve brass
crosses and candle
included, as well a
bank of organ pipes
in the choir loft. The
cost was $250,000,
paid from the estate of May Bonfils Stanton, who died
The year 1968 also marked an end and a new
beginning for St. Elizabeths. Three years earlier St.
Leos had closed, making St. Elizabeths the territorial
parish. One year later, the church was declared a
Denver Landmark. In 1969, it was nominated and
accepted for inclusion on the National Register of
Historic Places. In the 1970s, however, the parish faced
its greatest challenge as the prospect of urban renewal
and the creation of the Auraria Campus became a
A clergy member tends to a garden along side St. Elizabeth's
while a canine companion frolicks.
The Franciscan order took charge of
St. Elizabeths in 1887. Three years later, the original
St. Elizabeths church was torn down, two lots on 11th
Street purchased, and fundraising began for a new
church and school. Two brick buildings at 10th and
Champa streets were purchased and quickly converted,
the larger serving as St. Clara's convent and the other
as St. Claras Orphanage, which later moved to the
outskirts of Denver. The old orphanage buildings were
eventually converted to the St.
Rose Residence for Women.
All of these projects
were remarkable considering
the economic conditions in
Denver after the Silver Crash
of 1893. Undeterred by
financial difficulties, the
creative pastor, Father
Francis Koch, found unem-
ployed laborers who were glad
to work for low wages.
Father Francis Koch, The design for the new
St. Elizabeths first St. Elizabeths was based on
Franciscan pastor. the cathedral structures of
Europe. While the church was
nearing completion, Father Koch commissioned a St.
Louis company to cast in bronze three large bells for
the belfry. Two of the bells had been paid for, but the
third still awaited a donor. Father Koch went to the
wealthy German brewer, Philip Zang, who owned the
largest brewery in the Rockies, and asked Zang to
donate the money needed to buy the third bell. Father
Koch assured him that his donation was strictly
business. The priest also promised that Every time that
great bell rings it will advertise your brewery, it will cry
your name far and wide. Zang! Zang! Zang! Since
St. Elizabeths was just two blocks from the competing
Milwaukee (Tivoli) Brewery, Zang agreed.
national attention as
rumors of a socialist
plot spread, it is far
more likely that the
mentally ill. Today, a
plaque on the wall
marks the spot where
death, Bishop Matz
church. The years
horrifying murder of
its pastor provided
quiet growth and
The parish adjusted to the campus by providing a
place where students could gather and relax. This was
the St. Francis Center, which was built using funds from
the Bonfils Foundation.
To build the center, the school, the St. Rose
Residence and the convent were razed. As they were
being torn down, a bit of Denvers past was uncovered.
When the cornerstone of the old school building was
removed, workmen found plans for the school and three
1890 newspapers: The Colorado Journal (in German),
The Daily News and the The Rocky Mountain News. The
St. Francis Center officially opened on October 2, 1979.
In 1983, the Franciscans turned over St.
Elizabeths to the Capuchin order, which had been in
Denver since 1970, bringing an end to almost 100 years
of Franciscan involvement and guidance in the parish.
The St. Francis Conference Center is now the property
of the Auraria Foundation, housing some campus offices
and serving as a meeting space and reception hall for
the campus and community.
The murder of Father Leo Heinrichs gained national attention, spreading rumors of a socialist plot.
courtesy of Denver Public Library Western History Department
In the early 1920s, Spanish-speaking people
began arriving in the predominately Irish and German
neighborhoods of Auraria. A majority of these
newcomers to attended St. Leos, the Catholic Church
built for the Irish in the 1890s. When conflict
developed between Hispanic and Irish parishioners,
Father William ORyan, pastor of St. Leos, asked the
Theatine Fathers to minister to the needs of the
Spanish-speaking Catholics in the parish.
A petition was sent to Bishop Henry Tihen
requesting a separate parish and church and the
involvement of the Theatine Fathers, who had been
active in the American Southwest for centuries. The
Theatines were founded in 1524 by St. Cajetan of
Vicenza, who came from a family of bankers and is
credited with creating the first credit union.
In 1922, Father Bartolomew Caldentey began
saying Mass for the Hispanics in the basement of St.
Leos, and immediately
began to raise funds for a
new church. In September, Â£&
Father Caldentey was Jp !
recalled to Rome to become $
the Superior General of the 1
Theatine order. Before he .
left, however, he went to
see John Kernan Mullen, a
poor, uneducated Catholic *'*
Irishman who had become a f 'jjV1 l i
millionaire flour miller.
Born in Ireland, Mullen
came to the U.S. when he
was fourteen. He bought his
first mill in 1875, the Star Flour Mills in North
Denver, and within four years owned three more. In
1885, he created the Colorado Milling and Elevator
Company, which by 1911 had spread into four other
states. Mullen never forgot his beginnings in the
Auraria neighborhood. He was one of the key figures
in the founding of St. Leos, helping the parish out of
its financial crisis in 1898. At the time, Mullen still
owned his old home on Ninth and Lawrence streets,
even though he had built a mansion in the Capitol Hill
Mullen agreed to give the land on Ninth and
Lawrence to the proposed parish on one condition:
the parishioners were required to show their good
faith by raising $5,000. Put to the challenge, the
parishioners managed to raise over $4,000. Unfortu-
nately, the bank in which they had deposited their
money folded and they lost everything. Mullen was
satisfied by their show of faith, however, and donated
the land and a small house to ____________________
serve as a rectory. He also ' !:- Â£8K|g8||
contributed money to begin mS
the construction of the new
Theatines and the
Hispanic parishioners moved
out of St. Leos basement and
into a small house on the
Mullen property. Masses,
classes and church meetings
were held there. The parish
borrowed $15,000 for the
construction of the new
church and broke ground on
October 1, 1924. By January
1925, the basement of the
church was finished, the
borrowed money was
exhausted and the parish
was in debt. The council
decided to hold services in the basement until the
bills could be paid.
Mullens wife, Catherine, had been a
strong supporter of the new church. With
her death in March 1925, Mullen felt
compelled to provide support to the parish in
his wifes memory. Mullen donated $65,708
of the needed $89,000 to finish the church.
The cornerstone was laid on June 11, 1925.
Before construction was completed,
Mullen expressed his desire to see St.
Cajetans consecrated. He agreed to retire
the churchs remaining construction debts.
St. Cajetans was completed and consecrated
March 21, 1926, and dedicated as a memo-
rial to Catherine Mullen.
Many of the parishioners had helped
build the church, donating labor for carpen-
try, masonry and woodcarving. The church
itself was built of brick and stucco and had
two belfry towers in the front. The interior
was trimmed in pine and oak with plaster
When Auraria was built, St. Cajetans survived to become a meeting space and performing arts center for the campus. The
Lawrence Street viaduct was torn down in 1988, and the street became an attractive pedestrian mall. St. Cajetans plaza now
serves as a focal point for the campus.
John K. Mullen and his '
courtesy of Denver Public Library Western History Department
walls. Lines to simulate marble wainscoatlng were
drawn on the walls. The main altar was ornate, with
carved, painted white wood, and included niches for
statues and the crucifix.
Robert Willison, who designed
the Denver Municipal Audito-
rium and St. Dominics
Catholic Church, was the
The 1920s and 30s saw
the addition of the St. Cajetan
Clinic. During 1934, the clinic
was renamed the Ave Maria
Clinic, and served as an
outpatient department for
Denvers three Catholic
hospitals. The clinic, partly
Way, was roughly the equiva-
lent of todays modern medical
centers: It. continued to
operate until 1969, when it
was closed by the archdio-
cese. The sick were then
i steered to the updated
outpatient facilities in the
three Catholic hospitals
!i, r and to Ihe neighborhood
< clinics established in the 1960s by Denvers
Departmenl of Health and Hospitals.
In 1935, the parish built
irtBiMi a school and convent designed
by the famous Denver archi-
tect T.H. Buell. When the
school opened, tuition was
$20 for each family, regard-
less of size.
In an attempt to reach
s# out and help more people, St.
- * Cajetans established Our
Lady of Victory Mission in
1937. This tiny chapel was set
up at West Twelfth Avenue
and Umatilla Street to help the
poor people living in the South Platte River bottoms.
The flood of 1965 washed away the mission, and it
was never rebuilt.
To help Hispanic families buy cars and homes,
and meet lifes occasional emergencies, the St.
Cajetans Credit Union opened on January 10, 1939.
For nearly 50 years,
St. Cajetan's was a religious and cultural center for the Hispanic
This credit union served the parish for 31 years and
had 1,350 members. By the 1940s, the St. Cajetan
complex Included the church, the convent, the
parochial school, the Ave Marla Clinic and the Credit
Union, which was housed in the rectory located next
to the church.
In November 1953, the church was robbed. The
story lead In the Rocky Mountain News read: Two
armed thugs invaded a Denver church Wednesday
and stole $255. . The money had been taken from
the church credit union. The incident was so unusual
that the investigating officer said that, it was the
only armed robbery of a church he could remember
in six years of investigating stickups in Denver.
This marked the beginning of St. Cajetans
troubles. The unprecedented robbery soon became
the norm. In April of 1958, a second armed robbery
occurred. The credit union was robbed twice more,
once in September 1961 for $800, and the last time
in July of 1967 for $195. Only the final robbery
resulted in arrests.
In June of 1964, it was discovered that the
bookkeeper for the credit union had been embezzling
funds amounting to more than $14,000. According to
the auditors, interest income accounts were short
from 1959 to June of 1964 by approximately $150 to
$180 a month. She had also written up several
fictitious loans from which she embezzled $7,000.
The bookkeeper confessed she had been going to the
dog tracks and attending church bingo games held in
the basement of St. Cajetans.
After the last robbery was solved and the
embezzler revealed, St. Cajetans experienced a new
terror: arson. In March 1968, two fires were started
in the church that caused damage to a confessional
booth and an altar curtain. No arrests were ever
made in connection with the fires.
June 11, 1925: the cornerstone is laid for St. Cajetans Church.
When rumors swept through the Auraria neighborhood in the late 1960s that
the Denver Urban Renewal Authority was going to demolish the area to make way
for the 127-acre Auraria campus, panicked neighbors met in the basement of St.
Cajetans. Some prayed, some decided to fight the project and others resigned
themselves to the end of an era. In 1967, the neighborhood was officially declared
the future location for the Auraria Higher Education Center, and in 1969 the city
called a special bond election to secure funds for the project. Even though some
residents organized and campaigned against the bond issue, it was approved by the
voters. Fortunately, residents of the community were given funds for relocation,
even if they were renters.
After the bond issue passed, there was no reason for the residents to stay in
Auraria. Soon St. Cajetans school and playgrounds, the Ave Maria Clinic, and the
convent were demolished.
In June 1975, the congregation moved to a new, Aztec-style St. Cajetans in
southwest Denver, taking with them the church bell, some statuary, and the
exquisite stained glass bulls eye windows above the front doors. The old
St. Cajetans was remodeled as a campus auditorium, and the basement used for
In 1991, a major restoration began which replaced the buildings windows
and window frames, repaired the roof and exchanged the crumbling stucco for a
more durable synthetic, which is resistant to cracking. St. Cajetans was also
restored to its original colors, with gray trim, apricot walls and forest green
window shutters. Completing the project, a $40,000 grant from the Colorado State
Historical Fund made possible recreation of the churchs historic front doors and
beautiful stained glass windows.
Today St, Cajetans is a focal point on the Auraria Campus, which serves
roughly 35,000 students in the Denver metropolitan area. The 73-year-old land- Complete exterior restoration of St. Cajetan s in 1991 included a return to its original colors.
mark is a monument to the citys Hispanic heritage, and, along with other historic Photo byMlchael Gamer
campus buildings, a reminder that Auraria is the place where Denver began.
Built in 1876, the Emmanuel Chapel is the citys
oldest church structure. On November 3, 1859, Colonel
Lewis N. Tappan opened the citys first Sunday School
on the site, conducted by Professor Owen J. Goldrick,
Denvers first schoolteacher. The city later elected
Goldrick the first superintendent of schools and named
an elementary school in his honor.
In 1874, the site for Emmanuel was purchased by
Bishop John F. Spaulding for an Episcopalian chapel. It
was the first place of
worship erected in the
Auraria quarter of old
Denver, and for years
was the only church in
a ward with more than
The building was
constructed of stone
with twelve-foot by
buttresses, a mixture of
measures 24' by 66',
with a wall construc-
tion of stone pilasters.
The windows in the
front and along the
sides are Gothic style. Front and back
walls were originally enhanced by
rose-stained glass windows.
From 1874 to 1893, the chapel
remained part of the Episcopal
diocese. After the congregation moved
to a new building at Twelfth and Lipan
streets, the Cathedral chapter of the
Brotherhood of Saint Andrew held
services in the building, which they
renamed Saint Andrews Mission. From
1893 until 1903, a Sunday School, a
sewing school and a mothers meeting
were conducted by laymen and clergy
within the chapel.
At the same time, commerce and
industry flourished in the neighbor-
hood. More immigrants were attracted
to the area, including settlers from
Colorados unsuccessful Jewish
Atwood Agriculture Colony (near
present-day Sterling, Colorado), and
those from the Cotopaxi colony in
Southern Colorado. As Russian Jewish
immigrants streamed into Auraria to
try their hands at becoming merchants,
In the 1960s, Emmanuel was used as an artists studio. Today it
an art gallery for the three Auraria schools.
small store owners, peddlers and junk dealers, the need
for a Jewish synagogue arose.
There had been a small Jewish congregation,
Shmona Amunoh, in existence since the late 1860s, on
Fourteenth and Blake streets. Their synagogue was
destroyed by the 1880 Cherry Creek flood. The congre-
gation was forced to move three more times for a
variety of reasons. Finally, in 1903, the members of this
old congregation and the new immigrants purchased the
Emmanuel Chapel from Bishop Spaulding with a $2,000
loan. The two groups then
formed the congregation
Shearith Israel or Remnant of
The interior of the
chapel was remodeled in the
image of a traditional
Orthodox Synagogue. The
ceiling corners were
replastered and rounded in
the Orthodox style. Down-
stairs, the synagogue could
seat 150 people. A balcony
was also added, where the
Jewish women sat. As in all
synagogues, the seats and
altar faced east toward
The first years for the
synagogue were financially
lean, but the membership
continued to grow. By 1911,
the small congregation
boasted 65 members. As
several other small syna-
gogues sprang up in west
0 J. Goldrick.
courtesy of Denver Public Library
Western History Department
The interior of Emmanuel as a Jewish
Courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Jewish Historical Society
& Beck Archives, Center for Judaic Studies and Penrose
Library, University of Denver.
Denver, Shearith Israel began dwindle. When
World War II ended, the congregation had
only fifteen members. Finally, regular
services ceased in 1958, when the remaining
congregation was unable to gather the
required ten men for Saturday and holiday
services. In late 1958, the synagogue was
sold to Wolfgang Pogzeba, an artist, for
Pogzeba was the son of influential art
curator and restorer John Pogzeba. For
fifteen years he lived and worked in the old
structure, which would eventually become an
innovative part of Aurarias art world. His
innovative drawings, oils, prints and sculp-
ture made him popular in the Denver commu-
serves as nlty, where his work encompassed a variety of
subjects and styles from western to figurative
art. A few years after his studio became a
campus art gallery, Wolf died tragically along with his
wife and six-month-old child in a New Mexico plane
to 1973, Pogzeba
used the building
as an art studio.
He updated the
and, except for
doors with bronze,
he made few
changes. In 1969,
was approved for
listing on the
Places. As a
States landmark, no federal funds, such as urban
renewal or federal highway funds, could be spent in any
manner that might jeopardize its historical integrity.
Four years later, in 1973, Emmanuel became part
of the Auraria Campus. Currently the Emmanuel Gallery
is used by the Community College of Denver, the
Metropolitan State College of Denver and the University
of Colorado at Denver as a shared art gallery.
Wolf Pogzeba made inroads in
Western art with animals and other
figures sculpted in steel.
photo by Rodger Ewy
And thee there wes...
St. Leo the (Great
Auraria's Irish-American Catholics originally
attended services with the Germans at St.
Elizabeth's. At first the two ethnic groups shared the
church. But the language and cultural barriers
eventually forced the parish to split, with separate
priests and Mass times for each. When that arrange-
ment proved unsatisfactory, the Irish contingent
petitioned for a separate church. Denver miller John
k. Mullen donated his land at Tenth Street and West
Colfax for the future parish. In 1888, construction
began on St. Leo the Great, which would be completed
Initially. St. Leos was
one of the more successful
Catholic parishes in Denver,
thanks to its pastor. Father St. Leo's was demolished in 1965. ji
William F. ORyan. Under his preservation efforts associated with
leadership, St. Leos had as Campus might have saved it.
many as 2500 people
attending the four Masses on Sundays. Nevertheless, the
congregetion had financial problems. In 1898 a U.S. marshal
appeared before Father ORyan and ordered him to appear in
the U.S. District Court. District Judge Moses Halett signed
foreclosure papers on
St. Leo's, ordering Father ORyan to raise $11,200 in nine
months or turn the church over to its creditors. The pastor
immediately went to work asking for donations. Within nine
months he had collected enough money to pay the debt,
thanks to an $11,000 lump sum gift from four friends of the
congregation, $10,000 of which was donated by John K. Mullen.
By the 1920s, many of the Irish who had been instrumential in the building of
St. Leos, and whose families had attended and financially
supported the church, moved out of the neighborhood as they
made their fortunes. At the same time, a number of immigrants
from Mexico and other Spanish-speaking Americans moved
into Auraria. A majority of these newcomers turned to St. Leos
for spiritual support and guidance. Once again, cultural differ-
ences forced a confrontation between two ethnic groups using
the same church.
Father William F.
O'Ryan, first pastor of
courtesy of Denver Public
Library Western History
construction of the Auraria
apart. While the immediate problem was solved with the
construction of St. Cajetans, St. Leos was never able to
count on the support of the neighborhoods Hispanic
population. As the congregation at St. Gajetans would grow
yearly, St. Leos declined.
In 1940 Monsignor ORyan died. At the time of his
death, the church was kept alive only because of the $150
per month received from the estates of the late Verner Z.
Reed and John K. Mullen.
On February 28, 1965, Father Robert A. Banigan, the
parishs last priest, announced the closure of St. Leo's.
Catholic officials stated that the dwindling number of
parishioners had caused the archbishop to close the church.
Those families who continued to seek service at the
downtown church were asked to go to Mass at either
St. Elizabeths or St. Cajetans.
Father Banigan writes, I told the parish members this
morning that it was better to shut down now instead of
letting the elements, dust, wind and snow damage it further.
Old age just caught up with St. Leos. Perhaps it was
doomed from the beginning because it was built on a
foundation of prejudice. The Auraria Campus Technology
Building now occupies the site of the old church.
Colorado Catholicism by Tom Noel
Pioneers, Peddlers, Tsadikim by Ida Uchill
Centennial History of Jews in Colorado by Allen Breck
The Episcopal Church in Colorado by Allen Breck
German Pioneers in Colorado by Jacob V. Schaetzel
The History of Catholic Education in the State of Colorado
The Denver Catholic Register
The Auraria Transcript The Fourth Estate
The Metropolitan Historic Denver News
The Rocky Mountain News The Denver Post
A History of Our First 100 Years
Historical American Buildings Survey
Father Martorell began holding services for the Hispanics
in the basement of St. Leo's in 1923. Two years later. John K.
Mullen helped finance the construction of St. Cajetans Church
for the Hispanics. Ironically, the churches were only two blocks
Father 0. Martorell
Reverend James Prohens Magdalena Gallegos
Denver Public Library, Western History Collection
Auraria Library, Archives Collection
Colorado Historical Society Bill Bower Collection
The Rocky Mountain Jewish Historical Society & Beck Archives,
Center for Judaic Studies and Penrose Library, University of Denver
Written by Jason Krupar Edited by Rosemary Fetter
Published by the Auraria Office of the EVPA, May 1998
Designed and printed by Auraria Reprographics
William Greene Russell, one
of Aurarias founders.
courtesy of Colorado