The First Unitarian Church was built at the turn of the century in what is now a historic district in Denver. The Richardsonian-Romanesque-style stone church had once enjoyed a large congregation, but it and the surrounding neighborhood fell on hard times. The smaller remaining group felt a strong commitment to stay in the inner city and therefore elected to pursue renovation of the building.
All the building systems were outdated, inefficient and inadequate to meet code standards and desired comfort. Handicap access to the building was a major concern. Furthermore, the sanctuary space lacked the intimacy and friendliness appropriate to the Unitarian philosophy. Meanwhile, the social hall and kitchen were located on the garden level and accessed by a steep, narrow stairway.
The design challenge was to transform the functions and interior character of the building while maintaining the integrity of the historic exterior. In the middle of design, the church caught fire and was badly damaged; however, the insurance settlement allowed the project to move ahead. The program called for reducing the existing sanctuary space by one third and leveling the floor. The remaining first floor became a large social hall, new foyer and small library. This allowed all the primary congregation functions to be on the same level and in proper relationship to one another. On the upper level, the roof was destroyed and the rose window had to be repaired.
The First Unitarian Church congregation has grown since the renovation and continues to be a resource to the greater Capitol Hill community.