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!     

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