1373 Grant Street
Sat 10AM–4PM, Sun 12PM–4PM
Images courtesy of www.die-orgelseite.de.
Architect: Merrick Musick
Architectural Style: Georgian Revival
Year Built: 1937
Designation: Denver Historic Landmark
The First Baptist Church Denver was formally organized on May 2, 1864. Founded just six years after the founding of Denver, the history of the church closely parallels the history of Denver. The first pastor, Walter McDuffie Potter, came to Denver as a young man in 1863. He and his sister, through the Homestead Act, were able to acquire a large parcel (320 acres) of land in north Denver. Though he died at age 29, his legacy remains in the neighborhood that is now known as the Potter-Highlands Historic District. For several decades, the First Baptist congregation worshipped in a series of three downtown buildings - two on Curtis Street and one on Stout Street - before locating to Capitol Hill. The congregation purchased the Tritch Estate at 14th and Grant in 1917, but due to World War I and the Great Depression, the building project was not completed until 1938.
The First Baptist Church present building was designed by Denver architect, G. Meredith Musick, and was constructed between 1935 and 1938 in the Georgian Revival style. The church occupies a prominent location, significant both at the time and today, on the southwest corner of 14th and Grant. Its northern entrance is directly southeast across 14th Avenue from the Colorado State Capitol Building. To the east, across Grant Street, is the historic Scottish Rite Masonic Temple. To the west, across the alley, is the historic former Colorado State Museum which was the last building designed by notable Denver architect, Frank Edbrooke. Immediately west of the former museum is the Capitol Annex for which Musick was also the lead architect.
The exterior walls of the church are made from hard-burned, mud-faced solid bricks that were specifically made for the church from local clays, and they are slightly smaller in size than standard bricks. The entire exterior is trimmed with Indiana Oolitic limestone. All of the windows are multi-paned, clear glass in white painted wood frames and are either classically rectangular, long rectangular with arches, or ocular configuration. Immediately behind and above the entire portico pediment are the church’s signature tower, spire, and weather vane that reach nearly 160 feet into the air. Rising above the auditorium’s gabled roofline, the tower begins with the same mud-faced brick used to construct the rest of the church. Transitioning to the Indiana limestone for over 45 feet, the tower is finished off with a grand 40 foot copper-faced spire. The spire is capped with a cast bronze weather cock which is a common Protestant symbol of Christ and religious freedom.
The interior is designed in a T-shaped plan. The stem of the T, from north to south, includes the portico, vestibule, narthex, sanctuary/auditorium, chancel, and baptistery. The cross of the T wraps the chancel and the baptistery, and includes the church offices, parlor, and rooms that were originally part of the church’s school program. The north façade is symmetrical in layout and serves as the main entrance to the church. The church building remains in good condition and maintains a high degree of integrity in design, materials, and workmanship in relation to the existing Civic Center National Register Historic District, which it is a part of.
Reflective of the church’s historic commitment to social justice and equality for all, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from the First Baptist pulpit on April 16, 1962. According to their website, First Baptist Church has a worship style that is eclectic and welcomes people from all walks of life and systems of belief.
G. Meredith Musick (1892 – 1977) was born in Arkansas and educated in St. Louis and Denver. He is described as one of Denver’s top architects in the first half of the twentieth century. Musick opened his office in Denver in 1923 where he began his diversified portfolio, which boasts such structures in Denver as the Art Deco Style Bryant Webster School, the Neo-Gothic Republic Building, the Tudor Style Wellshire Country Club, the Art Moderne State Capitol Annex, the Italian Renaissance Revival extension of the U.S. Customs House (with Temple Buell), and, probably the two best examples of International Style architecture in Denver, the Denver University Business School (now part of the Wellington Webb Administrative Complex), and the Denver Police Building. Many of these buildings have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Musick’s eulogy in the Denver Post noted his “monumental impact on the face and skyline of Denver.”
First Baptist Church of Denver: www.fbcdenver.org; National Register of Historic Places Nomination; Mary Voelz Chandler: Guide to Denver Architecture.