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Our Beginnings

It all started on Sunday mornings…

beginnings

The church grew out of a Sunday school founded in 1887 by Mrs. Robert Lamont and Mrs. James Walker. The Sunday school met in the Harman Schoolhouse at 4th Avenue and Columbine Street. The growing congregation, originally named the Union Congregational Church of Harman, organized in 1888 with Rev. W.L. Gilman as the first pastor. The congregation initially met in the Harman Schoolhouse, but soon moved to a space over the Boot Grocery Store at Clayton Street and 4th Avenue. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed that building and all congregational materials, except the communion service, shortly after they began meeting there.

 

During the ensuing four years, the congregation met in a tent, a building in the 100 block of Detroit Street, and a two-room house at 4th Avenue and Steele Street. The congregation saved enough money to purchase a property at 4th Avenue and Cook Street for their future church site. They completed a new church at 4th Avenue and Cook Street, and after several name changes, the congregation dedicated it as the 4th Avenue Congregational Church in 1892. Though the church location was near the end of the trolley line from downtown Denver, the area surrounding the church was still partly undeveloped prairie. The congregation arrived via dirt streets and paths, from farms and city residences. This church was a neighborhood fixture from its inception with members, including the children, actively involved. Starting with a gift of 5 cents each, the children of the church invested in various enterprises, such as growing radishes or making ice cream, that astonishingly were successful enough to buy the church bell.

 

Due to a variety of factors, especially the City of Denver’s decision to grade Cook Street below the elevation of the church, the congregation determined to move to a different, larger location and sell the Cook Street building. With the previous church building sold, the congregation purchased four lots at Sixth Avenue and Adams Street, contracting with notable local architect William N. Bowman for the design and construction. William E. Sweet, future Governor of Colorado and prominent Congregational lay leader, selected the Sixth Avenue site. By 1922 Sixth Avenue was paved (though Adams Street was still dirt) and the trolley line from downtown Denver ran in front of the church. It was a desirable location desirable since it was a growing community as evidenced by some local-oriented businesses emerging, including a grocery store, and an increasing number of modest or middle class residences. Though the neighborhood was platted for several decades as Harman, the sites were only gradually built upon as the population of Denver expanded to the east. Thus, the Sixth Avenue Community Church was designed as and remains a neighborhood-oriented, community church.

 

Local Harman area families supported the church’s construction, financially and through volunteer efforts. The congregation dedicated the stained glass windows to the Boot, Booth, Bradley, Earwaker, Gierhart, and Young families who were among the significant contributors to the church. One of the stained glass windows has a dedication to Levi and Millie Booth who made notable contributions to the church. The Booth home was commonly known as the Four Mile House and served as a stopping place for travelers, including those traveling by stagecoach, located approximately one mile further upstream (south) on the Cherry Creek from Harman. The large central east-facing stained glass window is dedicated to Rev. W.L. Gilman, who was the first pastor at the original Union Congregational Church of Harmon.

 

As the new larger church was constructed, the 4th Avenue congregation attended services in a temporary wooden building, underwritten in part by the National Congregational Mission Society, on the Sixth Avenue site. The first service in the new building was held in the gymnasium on Sunday October 19, 1924. When completed, the congregation held a dedication ceremony in 1925 for the Sixth Avenue Community (Congregational) Church. The “children’s bell” from the 4th Avenue church was hung in the new Sixth Avenue Church tower where it remains operable today.

 

circa-1925Over the years, youth and adults of the community have utilized the gymnasium. Additionally, the church building housed a branch library and over time, provided meeting and event space for many other community groups and events. A key characteristic of the church has been its availability to non-religious organizations and events. During the 1930s the gymnasium was open days and evenings for neighborhood basketball teams, which provided a welcome outlet especially for young men. The stage end of the gymnasium was used for local plays by young people to entertain the community. Other organizations such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Campfire Girls, and the Capitol Opera Company have made the building their home. The community-oriented tradition of welcoming community use of the building continues today as many organizations and classes, including yoga, math camp, Al-anon, Pottery Guild, senior exercises, and ballet hold their meetings and events there; a pre-school affiliated with the Denver Waldorf School is also housed in the Sixth Avenue Community Church building.

 

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Sixth Avenue United Church of Christ || © 2017
303.377.0173 || office@sixthavenueucc.org
3250 Sixth Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80206