Saturday, January 24, 2015

Longmont Then and Now #16: St. John the Baptist Catholic Church

A striking picture of the old St. John the Baptist Church in Longmont caught my eye the other day:

From the Longmont Museum Photograph Collection
and made me wonder what happened to this structure.  Started in 1905 at a cost of $14,050, the Gothic style church was architected by Frederick Paroth of Denver who had just completed the Annunciation Church at 3601 Humboldt Street in Denver (still standing today, now on the historic register).  In 1898, Paroth had designed the St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church at 1062 11th Street in Denver. It also still stands today as a registered historic structure and bears a resemblance to Longmont's previous St. John church (in my humble, non-architect opinion):

"StElizabethsDenver" by Jeffrey Beall - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

The St. John church was built out of red standstone and its spire was 100 feet high.  Another view from the early 1900s:

From the Longmont Museum Photograph Collection

To understand how the church was named, we have to go back further to 1882 when a fledgling Catholic community raised $1,170 to build the first Catholic church in Longmont on two donated lots, on the east side of Collyer between Third and Fourth Avenues.  It was a small frame structure, measuring 20x40 feet and was blessed on the day of its first service by Bishop Joseph Machebeuf of Denver, who was Colorado's first bishop (a high school in Denver and a 12,800 foot mountain near the Loveland ski area are named after him).  That day was June 24, 1882 and it was a practice of the bishop to name new churches for the saint of the day.  The Feast of St. John the Baptist day falls on June 24, thus the name of the new church in Longmont.  

Back to the 1905 church,  Bishop Nicholas Matz from Denver presided over the dedication and opening service on July 22, 1906. 

A large pipe organ was installed in 1914 via a matching $1,000 grant from the Carnegie organ fund, six years after the Carnegie Foundation helped fund the Longmont Library just a block away. 

In the early 1960's, a growing Longmont population and a congregation of 2200 was proving that the existing church was too small.  Church leadership began planning a new $325,000 church which would seat 700 people and be constructed on the same site, also facing north at the corner of Fourth and Collyer.  The 1905 structure would be no more.  

June 27, 1962 Times-Call picture taken just a few days before demolition of the 57-year old church started.  The last service was a few days earlier, on the 24th.  I could not find out if the stained glass windows were preserved, described in 1905 as "some of the most beautiful in the state" by the Longmont Ledger, including a large rose over the main entrance.  Also, what happened to the organ?

Razing in progress.  Times-Call picture from July 17, 1962:

Artist rendition of planned new St. John the Baptist Church, Times-Call, June, 1962:

 St. John the Baptist Church today, 51 years old:

Cornerstone showing the year 1963 and U. I. O. G. D.  Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Dei  (Latin: so that in all things God may be glorified). First service at the new church was Midnight Mass, December 25, 1963. 

A summary of the informal "Longmont: Then and Now" series so far:
It's hard to believe that the most recent (#15) was over four years ago!     

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Fight the Ice with Screw Shoes

Longmont has been under a rare covering of ice since yesterday.  It started on Thursday night with some sort of rain/sleet mix that came down on mostly dry pavement and then froze overnight.  With below freezing temperatures and no sun on Friday, driveways, sidewalks, and roads (with the exception of treated main thoroughfares) were turned into ice rinks.  Nice for Dorothy Hamill, not so much fun for us. 

What to do, if you need to walk the dog, go to the mailbox, or visit a neighbor?  Screw-shoes to the rescue!

They're well known by Boulder trail runners who use them for traction on icy rocks but they mostly work fine for traversing your slicked-over driveway too.  All you need to get started is a pair of old running shoes, a screwdriver, and a visit to the hardware store:

The well-written defacto tutorial is here from legendary Colorado Springs runner, Matt Carpenter.  Pay close attention to the length of the sheet metal screw that you're buying, and don't go longer than 1/2 inch unless you want some continuous acupuncture on the bottom of your feet while walking.  

Here's the bottom of my screw shoes but I'm missing a few screws on the top (they occasionally come out):

These work best on small patches of the frozen stuff and will not save you on Zamboni-smooth ice. For questionable surfaces ahead of me, I like to gently scuff the toes of my shoes on the ice to see if I'm getting any traction.  If not, I'm taking very small steps until I'm past the danger zone.  I imagine that you'd have to take extra caution if you're walking a dog, especially one that pulls on the leash.

The screws are removable so you don't have to permanently sacrifice your shoes to do this.  And one more thing, be sure to remove your screw shoes before you walk into your friend's house with nicely finished wood floors!

There are more expensive ice traction options out there but given that these ice situations are rare in Longmont, the homebrew screw shoe solution is an acceptable alternative. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Bird's Eye View of St. Stephens Labrynth

Back in September, I mentioned the future satellite view of the St. Stephens Episcopal Church labrynth.  Since then, Google Maps has updated their images and you can see it clearly from above:



Google Earth gives us a closer look:

Back to a ground level perspective from today, you can see that it gets visitors even when its covered in snow:

Monday, December 29, 2014

Boulder NCAR Visit

The previous post reminded me that it's been a while since I've been inside the NCAR facility in Boulder.  As a major employer, a learning museum, a center of excellence for climate studies, a tourist attraction, and a convenient gateway to Boulder's renowned trail system, NCAR is a treasured resource and an important piece of Boulder's culture.  Despite that, it is widely agreed that NCAR would never be allowed to be constructed today in the hills above Boulder, with the  environmental, regulatory, and citizen activism landscape so different than it was in 1961 when NCAR was built.  

NCAR's learning center is always worth an annual visit and is a popular field trip destination for school kids during the week.   It's a good place to take visitors and it's free and open most days of the year.  Water fountains and restrooms are there too which is handy for hikers.

The view from inside, out the back window on Saturday, December 27:

The retired CRAY-1A that I mentioned last week.  To find it, go all the way downstairs. 

Looking at the Flatirons on a nice day.  Taking the left here is the entry point to the trail system. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from Longmont!

The snow started moving in early afternoon.  Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Old Cray Labs Building in Boulder

Back in 1978, Cray Research Inc. was on top of the world in the supercomputer market.  Led by the legendary Seymour Cray out of a small laboratory in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, their first super-computer, the CRAY-1 was a big success in the scientific market.   Only about ten per year could be manufactured but at a price tag of $8 million and with a backlog of orders fueled by cold war research funding from national labs, Seymour Cray was free to move on to design the CRAY-1 successor, which was naturally called the CRAY-2.

Thinking his Chippewa Falls team needed some competition, Seymour Cray hired G. Stuart Patterson from Boulder's National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in 1979 to establish a new Cray Research lab in Boulder called Cray Labs.  Patterson and Cray had become friends over the years, and NCAR was the first paying customer of the CRAY-1.  The direction of the Boulder lab was to explore new ideas and technology (VLSI) for the CRAY-2 while the Wisconsin team would continue evolving their current supercomputer architecture. 

One of Patterson's first tasks was to have a new building constructed.  The site chosen was on Mitchell Lane in northeast Boulder, not too far from the airport.  The beautiful building was arranged in a "C" shape, just like the arrangement of the CRAY-1 itself:

The "C" shape of the computer allowed wiring lengths to be optimized to get the most speed out of the system, which came to a peak of about 80 million floating point operations per second, a number that was stunning back then.  That's the cooling system (Freon and piping) that you see in the base of the unit, covered cleverly with upholstery.  Cray wanted technicians to have a comfortable place to sit while servicing the computer.

A short visit today to the Cray Labs building at 3375 Mitchell Lane shows its curved shape:

A satellite view shows it, too.

Cray Labs tried to recruit some of the Chippewa Falls engineers but that was difficult due to the significant housing and cost of living differences between a small town in Wisconsin and Boulder.  Only a few made the move.  Even in the early 1980s, Boulder was an expensive place to live.

Unfortunately, Cray Labs lasted just a few years.  It was closed in 1982 due to some disagreements that Patterson and Cray had with their CEO. 

Wild Oats was a tenant of the building at least in the early part of the previous decade and it was also extended to twice its original size during that time. In 2009, the building was sold to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) for $5.3M.  Probably a good price at the time since that was during the economic downturn. 

In 2010, the building was named after Dr. Richard Anthes, a long time UCAR administrator.  

Probably not many know the story of the building shape anymore but these folks do, and they even found a hot spot in front of the building from the sun's reflection off the parabolic shaped building.

A different city in Colorado would play prominently in another chapter of Seymour Cray's life but I'll save that for another post in the future.  

A lot of the information here comes from the great book, "The Supermen:  The Story of Seymour Cray and the Technical Wizards behind the Supercomputer" by Charles J. Murray (1997).

You can see NCAR's retired CRAY-1 (serial number 3) on display at the NCAR Mesa Laboratory that sits above Boulder. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Longmont Lights 2014

Annual lights event in Roosevelt Park.  The skydivers were back although Santa didn't suit up for the jump this year.  Mild weather again.

Previous years.  I seem to attend on even years (?!)
  • Skydiving Santa first year 2007, which predated this night event.
  • 2008, still a daytime event.
  • 2010
  • 2012