1350 Washington Street
Sat and Sun 10AM–4PM
Architect: Tracy and Swartwout
Architectural Style: Gothic
Year Built: 1911
Designation: Denver Landmark – 1968, National Register of Historic Places – 1975
The Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John’s in the Wilderness, located at 14th Avenue and Washington Street, is the second Episcopal cathedral to be built in Denver. The first cathedral, a red brick Victorian Romanesque structure built in 1882, was destroyed by fire in 1903. When subsequent plans were made for another cathedral, New York architects Tracy and Swartwout were chosen for the building, and it was completed in 1911.
It is Gothic in architectural style, with pointed arches and vaults, large expanses of stained glass, and a feeling of great height. The design for the cathedral was the traditional cruciform shape but the plan was too expensive and the transepts were never completed. The nave is built of Oolite limestone but the chancel and apse were constructed of brick as a temporary measure with the hope that funds could later be obtained to complete the original design. Roman arches in the brick apse were created to hold stained glass rescued from the former Romanesque cathedral and though that glass soon deteriorated, the replacement stained glass in the apse still conforms to the Roman shape, in contrast to the Gothic windows in the nave.
More than fifty stained glass windows fill the cathedral with glowing color. The aisle windows portray stories from the Old and New Testament. Eight of these and the huge Last Judgement window above the great north doors were created, from 1912 to 1921, by the Frampton Studio in London. The Connick Studio of Boston, famous for its contribution to the American Gothic Revival movement, is responsible for fourteen of the sixteen brilliant clerestory windows, and all eleven windows in the apse.
The nave of the cathedral is 185 feet long and 65 feet high, and is separated from the chancel by a wrought iron and brass rood screen brought from the first cathedral. Also rescued from the burned building is a carved oak reredos with niches holding sixteen statues representing Old and New Testament writers, on either side of a Christ figure, all carved in Oberammergau by Josef Mayr.
The Kimball organ, cited by the Organ Historical Society and containing 5,961 handmade pipes, was given in 1938 in honor of Platt Rogers, mayor of Denver, by his daughter Margaret Phipps. It has recently been restored, and in the past year fully completed, with the addition of an antiphonal organ located in the gallery above the north balcony.
Saint John’s Cathedral was designated a Denver Landmark in 1968 and in 1975 was also placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Evarts Tracy (1868–1922) graduated from Yale University in 1890, and Egerton Swartwout (1870–1943) followed in 1891. Both Swartwout and Tracy trained and worked as draftsmen with the renowned firm McKim, Mead and White from 1904 to 1909. Tracy and Swartwout were joined by architect James Riely Gordon, and founded the firm Gordon, Tracy & Swartwout. From 1909 to 1912, the firm was joined by Electus Darwin Litchfield, a graduate of the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and the Stevens Institute of Technology. The firm was at this time named Tracy, Swartwout & Litchfield.
Burnham Hoyt (1887-1960) and Merrill Hoyt (1881-1933) were brothers who grew up at 2849 West 23rd Avenue in north Denver, and they both graduated from North High School. Merrill received his architectural training at the prestigious firm of William Fisher Architects while Burnham received his training at the Beaux Arts Institute in New York City. After serving in World War I, Burnham returned to Denver in 1919 to join his brother and form the architectural firm of H. B and M. Hoyt, Architects.
The firm prospered in the 1920s and is credited with the design of many of Denver's iconic buildings of the era. Their designs embraced various historical styles including Greek Revival, Romanesque, and Spanish Revival. Together they designed residential, commercial, academic, and religious buildings. After Merrill’s death in 1933, Burnham returned to New York City where he eventually became the Dean of the School of Architecture at New York University. Later he returned to Denver and had his own architectural firm until 1955. Both Hoyt brothers had numerous civic and professional accomplishments to their credit.
Ann Jones, St. John’s Cathedral Historian; Mary Voelz Chandler, Guide to Denver Architecture; Olive B. Peabody, St. John’s Cathedral pamphlet; National Register of Historic Places nomination form; Historic American Buildings Survey; www.sjcathedral.org/about/history.