293 Roslyn Street
Sat 10AM–3PM, Sun 1PM–4PM
Architect: Unknown/United States Army
Style: Cantonment Chapel Style Frame Building
Year Built: 1941,1982
Designation: National Register of Historic Places
Eisenhower Memorial Chapel is an historic chapel located at the former Lowry Air Force Base. It was the first permanent chapel erected at Lowry Field, and is currently one of the last surviving examples of similar structures built to support the massive mobilization of American forces during World War II. It is also the last surviving building on the Lowry Base closely associated with President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
It is a simple wood-frame building, constructed in a traditional style for small churches. Architecturally, the building is a cantonment type chapel. The entrance includes a small peaked foyer extending from the front of the building to an open porch. It boasts a concrete pier foundation, concrete and wooden floor, partial concrete and framed walls, wooden siding, and roll roofing.
The exterior is of wood lap siding painted white. The front has one window at standard level on each side of the entrance structure and an additional window set above those windows at balcony level. Each side of the building features five double-high windows and a sixth normal-sixes set toward the rear. The back of the building has a normal-sized window on either side, and all windows are plain and undecorated. Besides the main entrance, exterior doors are located on the south side and rear of the subordinate unit.
The roof is gabled with the exception of the subordinate unit, which slopes down from the side of the main building. It consists of red shingles nailed over a wooden roof deck, which also acts as an interior ceiling. Evidence shows the roof once leaked, but there is no sign of damage to the roof deck; it is therefore probable the roof and deck were once replaced. If indeed it did take place, the replacement roof is still typical of World War II construction. A red brick chimney extends from the centerline of the roof at the rear. The front is surmounted by a four-sided, pointed spire—at least 20 feet high—decorated with an ornate lightning rod. The entranceway features a short passage formed by a changing room to the left and a consultation room on the right. The ceiling of this section is formed by a balcony that extends the width of the building.
The remainder of the main structure consists primarily of the sanctuary. The floor is tongue and groove oak construction, which were surfaced with vinyl asbestos tile, and is now carpeted. The interior walls are finished with wooden paneling below and plaster above. The high-pitched roof deck is supported by several open warren trusses, which provides a somewhat different and decorative aspect to the sanctuary. The subordinate unit houses a small restroom and a mechanical room which can be accessed from the outside exclusively.
It is an outstanding example of the simplicity, durability, and engineering quality inherent in the pre-World War II military type construction. Architecturally, the building represents one of the last surviving cantonment style frame buildings, which were once so common at Lowry Air Force Base.
Lowry Field, one of the Army Air Corps major training centers, underwent massive expansion in 1940 and 1941 under the pressure of international events and creation of the peacetime draft. To support the increased personnel, the Army Air Corps constructed hundreds of frame buildings at each base. In order to serve the religious needs of permanent personnel and trainees, construction at Lowry included several small chapels dispersed across the base. The first of these, Chapel #1, was completed in 1941 and officially dedicated four days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Eventually Lowry had eight chapels.
Throughout the history of Lowry Air Force Base, Chapel #1 has served the religious needs of the thousands of students and permanent personnel who have passed through the base, but it gained its greatest distinction in 1953, 1954, and 1955. During those years, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established his “summer White House” at Lowry. The President and Mrs. Eisenhower worshipped at Chapel #1, and the building has been associated with the Eisenhower name ever since.
During the late 1960s and 1970s, most of the wooden buildings at Lowry that dated back to World War II were destroyed or underwent extensive renovation as the base modernized its facilities. Among the changes, a centralized, modern chapel seating 400 people eliminated the need for the eight dispersed frame chapels. All were torn down with the exception of Chapel #1. Thus it remains the last survivor of an era, and a distinctive structure on the former base. Built in some haste and not intended to last long, the chapel, in the opinion of Lowry’s 3415th Civil Engineering Squadron, will last indefinitely.
The Neighborhood and Recent Owners
In 1924 the Colorado National Guard named the airport Lowry Field in honor of Denver resident Lt. Frances B. Lowry who was killed in France in WWI in 1918. In 1934, Denver citizens purchased the Phipps Sanatorium buildings as well as the land on Fifth and Quebec Streets, and offered the space to the Army as it was relocating the armament fields from Illinois to Denver. Lowry Air Field was officially re-named such in 1938 as an Army Air Corps photography and technical training center in 1938 and became a major contributor to the national defense. It was named Lowry Air Force Base in 1948 and was considered on the cutting edge of air and space technology for over 57 years.
The closure of Lowry Air Force Base as a cost savings measure was announced in February of 1991 by the U.S. Government. After the closure in September of 1994, a 1995 reuse plan was adopted and the redevelopment of Lowry began. Throughout the redevelopment process, preservation of Lowry’s historic past was of paramount importance. Lowry Air Force Base’s massive hangars were repurposed to house the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum and Big Bear Ice Rink. Many smaller offices and stores are now at home in these massive structures.
Redevelopment of the former steam power plant into modern stylish lofts and the preservation of the Eisenhower Chapel for community use and appreciation have contributed to the Lowry we know today. The Lowry neighborhood is a vibrant, mixed-use community incorporating the history of Lowry Air Force Base and blending the new. The Lowry redevelopment transferred the Chapel to the ownership of the Lowry Foundation, which now maintains the Chapel for community use. Rentals and showings of the chapel are managed by Colorado Free University.
Denver Landmark Application; City and County of Denver Ordinance DLM - 131; www.lowrydenver.com; National Register of Historic Places; Noel, Tom, Denver Landmarks and Historic Denver.