1401 Logan Street
Sat 10AM–4PM, Sun 11AM–4PM
Architect: Varian and Sterner
Architectural Style: Greek Revival
Year Built: 1904
Designation: Denver Landmark, 1968
Photo Restrictions: No
The elegant classical gray stone building at the northwest corner of Logan and 14th Avenue is the First Church of Christ, Scientist. It was designed by Ernest Phillip Varian of Varian and Sterner. The building is an unusually pure example of the Greek Revival style of architecture and has detailing that is reminiscent of ancient Greek temple architecture. The main entry to the building on Logan Street features a large portico with a triangular pediment atop six massive stone columns with Ionic capitals. "The Eternal God Is Thy Refuge" is incised along the frieze below the pediment. The building is square in plan, with each side stretching 125 feet. The design is capped with a segmented copper-clad dome.
Inside, the layout of the sanctuary is inspired by the design of ancient Greek theaters. The floor is sloped and the seating is arranged in semicircles focusing on the central podium where the First Reader (a lay minister) reads the scripture passages for the church service. The sloped floor allows each congregant to have a clear view of the podium. The sanctuary has individual stadium seats instead of traditional pews. When it was built, the sanctuary had the largest open unobstructed auditorium in the city and held 1,800 people. Deep steel beams cross the ceiling and are capable of holding the roof up without additional columns. The architect specified quarter-sawn Russian oak for the wood trim throughout the building. Russian oak has finer grain and is denser than American red oak.
Classical architecture became popular in America after the 1893 Columbian World’s Exposition in Chicago, which launched the City Beautiful movement. One of the primary concepts of the movement was that beauty had the capacity to inspire human thought and behavior, encouraging civic loyalty and harmonious urban moral order. The idea of elevating thought through architecture was very appealing to church leaders and many early Christian Science churches were built in classical styles.
The organ has 3,360 individual pipes, only 86 of which are visible from the sanctuary. The smallest of these pipes is about the size of a pencil and produces a high, shrill note (dog whistle territory). The largest pipe is 16-feet long and produces a floor-shaking baritone blast. The sloped floor and the overhead domed ceiling give the sanctuary unusually good acoustics, which was particularly important at the turn of the century when the building was constructed because there were no sound amplifying systems available at that time.
The building at 1401 Logan was built to replace an earlier Christian Science church, which sat three blocks north at 1751 Logan. The original church was built in 1891. At the end of the 19th century Christian Science was the fastest growing religion in America. By 1899, only eight years after the first church was built, they realized that they needed to build a new church to accommodate their growing congregation. At the time it was built, the church at 1401 Logan was the largest Christian Science church west of the Mississippi.
The First Church of Christ, Scientist was the first large structure in Capitol Hill built of lava stone, which was produced by the Kerr Quarry in the Arkansas River Valley near Salida, Colorado. The cornerstone of the building is made from granite quarried in New Hampshire, the home state of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science church.
Christian Science is a religion that was founded in New England in the last quarter of the 19th century by Mary Barker Eddy. Mrs. Eddy argued in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1875) that sickness is an illusion that can be corrected by prayer. The book became Christian Science's central text, along with the Bible.
Mrs. Eddy described Christian Science as a return to "primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing." There are key differences between Christian Science theology and that of other branches of Christianity. In particular, adherents believe that reality is purely spiritual and the material world is an illusion. They believe that disease is a mental error rather than physical disorder, and that the sick should be treated not by medicine, but by a form of prayer that seeks to correct the beliefs responsible for the illusion of ill health.
The congregation of the First Church of Christ, Scientist built the structure at 1401 Logan and they still own the building more than a century later: the church is still open and active. They hold worship services on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. The Christian Science Reading Room (a cross between a library and a bookstore of religious literature) is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
Phillip Varian was born in Plainfield, New Jersey in 1854. He began his career as a contractor and worked for several large New York firms before coming to Denver in 1880. In 1885 Varian established a partnership with Fredrick Sterner, and their sixteen year partnership was prolific. Their work includes the Denver Athletic Club, Tears-McFarland House, Pearce-McAllister House, and Bosworth House. In 1901 the partnership was dissolved and by 1909 Sterner moved back to New York. Varian remained in Denver and established a partnership with his son Lester Ernest Varian.
Capitol Hill is one of Denver’s best known neighborhoods, home to many of the city’s most influential families of the late 19th and early 20th century. Official boundaries are Broadway on the west, Colfax on the north, Downing on the east, and 7th Avenue on the south. It derives its name from the acceptance of Henry Brown’s donation of land for the construction site of the Capitol building.
Denver the City Beautiful by Thomas J. Noel and Barbara S. Norgren; Denver Landmark Application; Molly Brown’s Capitol Hill Neighborhood by Leigh A. Grinstead; https//history.denverlibrary.org; Geology Tour of Denver’s Buildings and Monuments by Jack A. Murphy; Doors Open Denver website; fact sheet published by the congregation of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Denver; Images of America, Denver’s Early Architecture by James Bretz.