1614 Welton Street
Sat and Sun 10AM–4PM
Architect: Frank E. Edbrooke
Architectural Style: Richardsonian Romanesque
Year Built: 1890
Designation: National Register of Historic Places - 1977
The Masonic Temple is a five story commercial building located on the northeast corner of 16th and Welton. It is a Richardsonian Romanesque style building constructed in 1889-90 and designed by Frank E. Edbrooke. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The location and the construction of the building, where no expense was spared, is evidence of the wealth of the Masons in the early days of Denver.
The order of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons has been a tremendous force in America. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, founders of the United States, were Masons. As America grew to the west, Masons were always in the forefront, bringing with them a love of freedom, a spirit of lawfulness and a sense of community. Masonry came to Colorado with the pioneers and it may be said that the history of the early days of Colorado is the history of the achievements of the Masons of that time. Their firm beliefs in the tenants of the Fraternity - brotherly love, relief and truth – and their constant practice of the four cardinal virtues – temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice – caused them to work in harmony and to take a prominent part in all of the movements tending to promote the welfare of the community. The first Masonic gathering took place at a cabin near Cherry Creek in 1858, the year Denver was founded. The original Auraria Lodge, established in 1859, was granted charter in 1861 under the name of Denver Lodge #5, by which name it has continued to exist up to the present.
The building design expectations that the architect faced involved the integration of a large ceremonial area, the spaces of which were rigidly determined by Masonic ritual, and another large open commercial area. The “corner tower” device was the architect’s way of uniting and expressing both functions. While this creates a busy façade, not usually appreciated in a Richardsonian commercial building, the result worked.
The building has two dissimilar facades: the 16th Street side is 125 feet long while the Welton Street side is 100 feet long. The ground floor, as originally constructed, was of rough-faced Colorado granite. The upper portion is of red sandstone, also rough-faced, with the exception of its trimming, which is smooth faced. Following Richardsonian style, the stone façade is rough and the entry pronounced, flanked by heavily worked columns and upper panel. Massive arches at the granite base play against the arcade of arches on the fifth floor. A fire in the mid 1980’s led to a renovation by C.W. Fentress that added pent house floors and saved the Masonic Temple as a popular retail and office space.
Frank E. Edbrooke, (1840-1921) has been termed the “Dean of Denver architecture”. Himself a Mason, he was said to be almost single-handedly responsible for the architectural maturity of Denver’s downtown in the 1880’s and 1890’s. Other buildings his firm designed included The Denver Dry Goods Company Store, the Tabor Grand Opera House, Joslins Department Store, Loretto Heights Academy, and the Brown Palace Hotel.
Curtis W. Fentress (born 1947) is a graduate of North Carolina State University School of Design, College of Architecture. After college he went to work for I.M. Pei in New York City. He is currently the principal in charge of design at Fentress Architects, an international design studio he founded in Denver in the 1980’s. Fentress Architects also has studios in Los Angeles, San Jose, Washington D.C., and London. He designed Denver International Airport as well as airports in Seoul, South Korea, and the modernization of Los Angeles International Airport. His work is in the genre of airports, museums and public buildings.
www.denver5.org/history; National Register of Historic Places nomination form; Mary Voelz Chandler - Guide to Denver Architecture.