The Day the Bell Tower Fell at St. Mark’s Church

Posted: Friday July 28, 2017

The Day the Bell Tower Fell at St. Mark’s Church

On any given weekend, you may be considering where you and your friends want to spend your night out. Whether you’re new to the city of Denver, or have lived here for the majority of your life, odds are that you’ve at least heard about The Church Nightclub, one of Denver’s most iconic nightlife spots in The Golden Triangle District. You may come for the DJ, for the production, to book bottle service, or to experience a new place that you’ve never been before. At this point, most people in the city generally know that this building on the corner of 12th & Lincoln is an actual church that was purchased and converted into a nightclub in the early 1990s.

What most people may not know is that the building is rich with a very long and somewhat controversial history since it’s completion in 1890. The Church has been deemed a Historical Landmark to be preserved by the City of Denver due to its history, architecture and geographic location. After many years of owning the building, the staff would like to convey this story back to the city in a series of blog posts that we will be publishing over the coming weeks.

The Church spent around 90 years in service as a religious institution. Until the late 1980s, the edifice was the second location of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

What most people don’t realize is that The Church used to look a little different back in the day than it currently does now in 2017. The external Gothic and Roman architecture throughout was more elaborate and decorative in style. The building had a tall turret and a tower. On March 12, 1952, the large tower you see pictured below fell over into the street.

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A Tower Tumbles

Denver is known for having some rare but extremely windy days due to Chinook wind storms. These storms start along the Front Range and The Rocky Mountains, sweep across the plains and loop around to slam right back into the city. The Church is particularly susceptible to wind damage due to soft sandstone material utilized during it’s construction. The night before the incident, winds reached a high of 130 MPH and a storm left about 3 inches of snow on the ground. As the winds continued to rage through the area before the 10 a.m. service that morning in 1952, several hundred pounds of stone rained down on the streets and sidewalks below the building. The upper part of the tower caved into the main entrance. Fortunately, no one was injured. However, the building had to be condemned and sealed away from the public by the City of Denver as unsafe.

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Rebuilding

As luck would have it for this staple of the Denver community, the condemnation order was lifted as it was discovered that the Lincoln Street side entrance to the building (which is still in use today) was an option for patrons to utilize. Rebuilding started as quickly as the next day.

The main structure of the The Church was found to be sound, but it would take several repairs to get the front entrance back in order. In fear of further wind damage to the building in the future, all copings and decorative stone were removed from the outside, and the main tower was leveled off, flattened, and sealed at the point where it fell. The hope during the renovation was that the life of the building could be extended for another 75-100 years. Since the tower fell, it has at lasted at least another 65 years, and will continue on for many more to come.

The cost of this renovation was in excess of $40,000, which in today’s dollars would be approximately $364,425!

“One of the most startling events of the rectorate of the Reverend H. Evans Moreland was that the tower of the Church fell and had to be rebuilt. This cost $40,000 and was all raised in a very short period of time, showing the love of the people for their church.” ~The Diocese Completes Its First Century, 1947-1960, page 255.

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Still in Use Today

This renovation, undertaken by the parish, is one of many reasons why today you can still enjoy the best of Denver nightlife in this beautiful building. We invite you to visit The Church and experience internationally recognized artists, producers and DJs all within a truly unique and historically significant environment. The next time you come through, you might think about the building a little differently after gaining this first tidbit of knowledge!

Stay tuned for more to come.